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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.
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