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Cost of Living
Much to my surprise, I did manage to get some fresh food when I went shopping for the Food Stamp Challenge, but only a limited amount. I have a half-gallon of skim milk, and I now realize that if I was truly on a budget--and sustenance was a major issue--I would have gotten 2% or whole milk because there are more calories in it. Here is a list including all the rest of food I purchased, coming out to an even $30.79:
Lentils, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, oatmeal, ½ gallon of skim milk, 1 head of lettuce, carrots, 2 green peppers, 4 ½ pounds of apples, 2 lbs of frozen broccoli, 1 loaf of whole wheat bread, and peanut butter.
While making some peanut lentils with rice, I was talking about the Food Stamp Challenge with some house mates and the point was made to me that living on a budget like this can be particularly hard due to the lack of food variety. To eat on this budget long term would mean a lot of lentils, rice, and pasta. I know that I would tire of it very quickly.
Another difficulty of cooking on a limited budget is time. If a single parent had to cook on this budget with all the activities of work and kids and school, finding the time to cook cheaply would be much more difficult. Many quick instant meals are available, so it makes sense that so many families live on instant meals and carry-out dinners.
Making ends meet with SNAP benefits has become much easier this year due to the economic stimulus put in place after the recent recession, but that won’t last forever. The boost from the stimulus is a short term thing, and within a number of years inflation will catch up and, like pre-stimulus times, SNAP benefits will again reach their former level of inadequacy. It blows my mind that after all of this time those in power have not fixed such a relatively simple thing. When compared to the United States defense spending, increasing the benefits to hungry people on the SNAP program should be easy, simple, and plainly the right thing to do. Simply increase the monetary flow to the people who need it most.
Hopefully someday soon things will change.
Mark Fenton is Communications Intern at Bread for the World
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