Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

The Challenge I'm Avoiding

Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski is doing it. My cubicle neighbor will start in two weeks, and she’s trying to convince the whole office to join her. I have the nagging feeling that I should try it, but I’m not sure I could last a week.

I’m talking about the Food Stamp Challenge: surviving for one week on $21 worth of groceries. This is the average weekly benefit for food stamp participants, and most experts agree that it is not sufficient for a balanced, nutritious diet. My first thought was that $21 for one week wouldn’t be that bad. The next time I go to Safeway, I can buy a gallon-size box of oatmeal (31 servings) for $1.99, yogurts for $.50 each, and even squeeze in some apples and salads. No problem. I might even eat healthier.

Then I thought about my last three days. On Monday, I ran for a half hour with some friends, enjoying the warm weather and lingering sun. Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves by heading to a pub to eat and watch the Red Sox game. I spent $8.95 on a Caesar salad, which was about $11 when I added tax and tip. That would have blown half my budget right there.

Yesterday, I had a PB&J sandwich and an apple for lunch, washed down with free and healthy water. By 3 P.M., though, I was hungry again. I bought a bag of BBQ-flavored soy crisps at the café next door to our office. Sure, they taste like BBQ and they have both calcium and protein, but the price is $1.76. If I were on a one dollar per meal budget, that’s quite a splurge.

Tonight, I’m meeting a friend at Cosi. I’ll just get tea, but that will set be back about $2. Of course, I will supplement this with lots of their free bread samples. Still, I’ve spent nearly $15 so far on one meal and two tiny snacks – and I haven’t even made it to the weekend.

I’m sure I could eat for a week for with only $21. After all, over 25 million people use food stamps each month and most of them do survive on such a budget. Food is not just fuel for me, though. I buy snacks for fun and for a quick break from work. Lots of times when I meet friends, we end up at coffee shops. Worst of all for a food stamp budget, I love eating out - especially after running. The food stamp budget does not allow for many last-minute purchases or meals that are not prepared at home. As someone who changes her mind five times a day and can’t cook anything beyond omelets, I’m dreading this challenge.

Download food_stamp_challenge_faith_journal.pdf




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As someone who has to watch her cholesterol, I too am dreading this challenge. I think it will be really hard to eat low-fat, unprocessed foods for a week with just $21.

Miriam - This is a great challenge. I'm lucky to have a market close by that sells fruits and veggies at really low prices. I can buy a weeks worth of both for less than $20! Plus, Joel and I love cooking from our Mennonite cookbook - which provides some really healthy recipes with not too complicated ingredients. It's great. What I really need to cut down on - trips to the local coffee shop and lunches out. I'm addicted to passion fruit iced tea ;) It adds up. Thanks for this post.

Check out the great NY Times article about this in today's edition: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/01/us/01stamps.html?_r=1&ref=us&oref=slogin

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