Who Receives Snap Benefits
Carolyn, a graphic designer living in Baltimore, decided to apply for SNAP when she was laid off in the spring. It seemed like a program that was worth taking advantage of in this time of transition that I find myself in, she says. These programs are around to help people in situations like this.
Ouida moved from the South where she owned a small business to Pennsylvania so her partner could attend school full-time, but their financial plans changed drastically when she was unable to find a job after the move. Its like you had the rug pulled out from under you, she says. When we found out we could apply for the SNAP benefits, it was a hard decision to do it, but when you dont have any money coming in, you have to do something.
Elisa is a single mother with a 12-year-old daughter diagnosed with two medical conditions that have so far required four open-heart surgeries and four spinal surgeries. She left nursing school in order to devote her time to caring for her daughter and because of the uncertainty of her daughters health, is not able to work full-time. said to me, Listen, I see you struggling. You can go on these benefits they apply to you and your situation,’ she says. Ive been on them for a year and a half now and they are so helpful. Because the last thing I have to stress about now is feeding my daughter and myself.
What Did I Eat
As I just mentioned, week one was a disaster, but it showed me how much planning and how meticulous you have to be to actually make a budget like this work. Is that level of dedication realistic? Not very much so, especially if you have a family to take care of or are working two jobs . Even with my well stocked kitchen and all of my background with cooking and portioning, I still needed to put in more effort to make this work. There were many nights of the week that I just fought off my hunger with a pita and peanut butter instead of a real meal. After only a few days I was so hungry that I was looking for calories everywhere and anywhere. It was bad. So, here is my daily breakdown with relfections:
Day 5 Lunch At The Courts
My blissful smoothie combination made an appearance again this morning before I headed out for a day of tennis. I coach on Saturdays, and the day flew by without a thought of food that was a first.
During my half-hour lunch break I munched on a peanut butter “sandwich.”
This feeling of being an outsider crept back in this afternoon. After tennis I met up with some college friends at a rooftop bar to enjoy the first day of real spring weather. While people ordered several rounds of appetizers and drinks, I sipped on a glass of water.
Once again, I didn’t care too much about not being able to drink a beer or eat chicken tenders , but I felt detached from the group.
Today, it became very clear to me that when I want to interact, socialize, or build relationships with people, I eat and drink with them! Just one meal at a restaurant, however, would likely use half of my weekly budget.
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We All Eat Differently
First, the obvious: Everyone has unique preferences and norms when it comes to food! We all eat differently individuals even eat very differently from day to day. This isn’t meant to be a prescriptive meal plan, nor is it a real person’s food journal. It’s just an example of what three meals might be on a budget of just $4.17.
Snacks: Granola Bar Ants On A Log
Great Value Oats & Honey Crunchy Granola Bar: 24 cents
Ants on a Log
1 celery stalk: 20 cents
2 tablespoons Great Value peanut butter: 8 cents
2 tablespoons Great Value raisins: 21 cents
Total : $0.73
It’s unrealistic to think that people, particularly kids and young adults, eat just three meals a day. Inexpensive and shelf-stable snack choices like granola bars are a good bet for between meals, because they can be packed to-go.
For an at-home snack, we went with ants on a log, which repurpose two ingredients from breakfast. This helps keep costs down, but Bartosiewicz says that it can get old too. “There can be a lack of variety in the diet if people buy the same foods that they know fit in their budget and their family will eat, or if they are buying food in bulk to save money,” she says.
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Day 2 One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other
After yesterday’s disaster, I truly stepped it up for lunch or so I thought, until I saw what others had packed or bought.
While my coworkers enjoyed nutritious salads, cous cous, hummus, and carrots, I settled for plain noodles with a dash of salt.
My food stamp meal lost in both the aesthetic and nutritional categories, and I couldn’t help but feel envious and a little bitter.
Day 6 The Red Lentil Conundrum
I returned to my trusty oats this morning, and after breakfast I decided to break into my bag of red split lentils.
I learned exactly how not to cook red lentils, and ended up with some sort of mushy product, which I stuck in the fridge to deal with when lunchtime rolled around.
Lunchtime did indeed roll around, and I made some shockingly delicious veggie tacos out of my lentil mush .
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Day 6 The Dinner That Started
I hadn’t felt severely hungry until tonight. Ironically, today was one of my least active days, too , but food depletion seemed to catch up to me this Sunday evening.
Since I had been doing a good job stretching my resources, I didn’t feel too guilty about whipping up several courses.
Dinner started at 4:00 p.m. when I cooked my last sweet potato as an appetizer …
Rules Of The Snap Challenge
The main idea behind the SNAP Challenge is simple: Eat for one week on a SNAP budget. The hunger-relief organization Foodshare proposes a budget of $4.15 per person, per day, which it says is the average daily allowance for SNAP beneficiaries.
average return of 397%
However, the Food Research and Action Center , an advocacy group, recommends a more specific approach. It says to base your budget on the average monthly benefit per person for your state, which you can find on the website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture . In 2014, the monthly benefit ranged from $105 per month, or $3.50 per day, in Minnesota and New Hampshire to $225 per month, or $7.50 per day, in Hawaii.
Whatever budget you choose, it has to cover all your food and drink for the week. Specifically, this means the following:
A final rule, proposed by both Foodshare and FRAC, is to share your experiences as you take part in the Challenge. Past participants have used Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to post regular updates on their progress throughout the week. Some particularly well-known individuals and organizations have spread the word through the mainstream media as well, discussing their experience on television and writing columns for newspapers.
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Another Challenge Is Having The Time To Cook
The SNAP recipients I spoke with have one advantage over many who receive these benefits: they know how to cook. And because of their employment situations, they have more time to cook than those who work full-time hours or more for wages so low they still qualify for benefits. This is important to note because SNAP benefits are calculated with the assumption that recipients will be cooking almost everything they eat from scratch.
The amount that each household receives in SNAP benefits is calculated based on the USDAs Thrifty Food Plan, which reflects the lowest cost for a nutritious diet. If you look at the types of food in and what they say would be typical, it really would take a lot of time for people to do all that preparation, says Amy Headings, a registered dietitian and Director of Nutrition at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. The tough thing is that if youre on SNAP, youre usually working a job that isnt paying great, which usually means youre working two jobs that arent paying great. Expecting people in that situation to cook all their meals from scratch is slightly unreasonable, she says.
Food Stamp Challenge 2014 #snapchallenge
. Like I do every year, myself, and my hubby Dr. Dale Zagiba along with our son, Anthony are participating in the Food Stamp Challenge to raise awareness for hunger in our community. It is a part of our month long, Fighting Hunger, Feeding Hope Food Drive for Hunger Action Month which we kicked off Thursday, September 4th for Hunger Action Day, and turned my school orange!
This challenge is great because it doenst only teach you about the SNAP program, and all of the misconceptions associated with food stamps, but it is also a great way to save money, and grocery shop on a budget. If youre looking to save money on your grocery bill, this menu and the Food Stamp Challenge is for you.
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Nutrition Isn’t Necessarily A Priority
Finally, for many SNAP recipients, prioritizing nutrition just isn’t realistic. The SNAP program provides education on how to eat healthfully on a limited budget, but as Murragarra points out, “The struggle is a little different . It’s about making sure you have rent paid so you and your kids don’t get kicked out, and getting a job that makes you enough to scrape by. As long as you’re eating and can work on a daily basis and you seem to be healthy, you probably don’t worry about eating corner store Cheetos for dinner instead of going in search of vegetables.”
This too varies from person to person. In their research for Pressure Cooker, Brenton and her co-authors found that low-income caretakers generally do want to provide nutritious foods for their families, and many feel guilty over not living up to “healthy eating” standards set by SNAP-Ed and similar nutrition education programs.
As we explore what a day of eating on a SNAP budget might look like, remember that SNAP recipients are not a homogeneous groupfor so many reasons, a real day of eating will look different for everyone.
Day 0 Grains Galore With A Dabble Of Veggies
If I could do the shopping trip over, I would definitely substitute the organic eggs for the much cheaper regular eggs. The only two cartons of non-organic eggs remaining were littered with cracked ones, which is why I went with the more expensive choice.
Another big splurge was butternut squash soup . Looking back, I probably should have bought more pasta or another cheap, complex carbohydrate.
One of the biggest mistakes I made was not buying butter or oil, essential cooking ingredients that I take for granted and therefore completely overlooked.
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Day 4 Inhaling Nutrients
Feeling malnourished after missing dinner last night, I opted out of running this morning and wolfed down three hard-boiled eggs instead.
I also attempted to spice up my oatmeal by adding almond milk in addition to water I failed miserably with the liquid-to-oats ratio and had to add a half of a packet of oats to balance out the soupy concoction.
Hopefully I won’t regret using that half pack of oats later this week.
Problems With The Snap Challenge
Enlightening as the challenge was for participants, its far from perfect as a way to learn what life on SNAP is really like. Observers commenting on the challenge participants pages pointed out several flaws in the way the challenge is structured that make it less realistic.
FRACs rules for the challenge include a loophole that lets you get around many of these problems. According to these rules, you can eat food from your pantry, including bulk-purchased and sale-priced foods, as long as you take money out of the budget to pay for it. If you take this rule to its extreme, you can take the challenge using only food from your pantry and not shopping specifically for the challenge at all.
I took this form of the challenge in 2014, calling it the Reverse SNAP Challenge because I was eating what I would normally eat but deducting the cost from a $4.50-per-day budget. Doing the challenge this way made bookkeeping more difficult, since I had to calculate how much Id spend on each ingredient I used rather than just using a weeks worth of benefits to buy a weeks worth of groceries. However, the actual food part of the challenge was much easier. Because I could use everything in my fridge and pantry, I was able to eat a much more varied and healthful diet on my Reverse SNAP Challenge than most participants could on the standard challenge.
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Day 1 Snacks For The Week
I’m a serial snacker and often eat multiple mini-meals throughout the day. One of the most challenging parts of this week will be not having the freedom to snack when I please.
Since I will not be scrambling too many eggs without oil, I decided to make a batch of hard-boiled eggs, which will come in handy when I get the urge to snack.
My adrenaline and excitement over starting the challenge helped alleviate caffeine headaches or hunger pains, and even carried me through the dullest of lunches, but my body felt disrupted.
I feel incredibly constrained with my limited food options, and each meal felt utilitarian. I predict that the joy of eating will quickly vanish, and it will become like homework a task to complete or something to check off of a list.
Food Stamp Challenge: Try Living On $3150 For Food For A Week
Twin Cities religious leaders organize a grocery shopping trip to highlight obstacles facing the poor.
An imam and a man who knows poverty up close and personal came together in understanding the other day.
It happened over a grocery cart.
Said the first, Tamim Saidi, 39, who came to Minnesota 20 years ago as a refugee from Afghanistan, Lets see what I remember from my college days about shopping cheap.
Said the other, Dennis Boe: For me, its daily life, so youre just playing a game.
A Food Stamp Challenge grocery shopping trip Sunday brought together Boe, who lives on about $1,000 a month in disability payments and other income supports, and Saidi, vice president of the board of the Northwest Islamic Community Center in Plymouth, as well as 20 other religious leaders of Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths.
Their goal: buy a weeks worth of food for $31.50 per person, the weekly national average amount allocated to the poor through SNAP, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program of the federal government, formerly called food stamps.
Then see how far that money goes.
This is a tiny, tiny glimpse of what its like to be poor, stressed Rabbi Amy Eilberg, one of the guiding hands behind the effort to raise public awareness of hunger and to engage religious leaders in a better understanding of poverty and food insecurity.
Is anyone here poor?
Is anyone here poor? he asks. No one answers.
On the walk Boe attaches himself to Saidi to share his advice.
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My Week On Food Stamps
The SNAP Challenge
After reading the full SNAP challenge rules, $31.08 for one person for one week, I was extremely worried. I love grocery shopping, and I consider myself the Queen of State College Wegmans. That being said, I am very health focused, and because healthy foods tend to be much more expensive than unhealthy foods, I can easily rack up a Wegmans bill of $100/week without even buying organic. Yikes, I know, this is nowhere close to $31.08. I realize that I am very lucky to have the ability to be fairly unrestrained about what I buy at the grocery store. My parents, who pay for my groceries, support my eating habits and luckily can afford to pay for them. As the SNAP challenge rules indicated, I realize many people do not have this luxury. I knew the fact that I was already pretty educated on how to eat healthy would help me with this challenge, the hard part was just going to be figuring out how to do it on a budget.
Step One: Grocery Shopping
Step Two: Meal Planning and Eating
Now that I had my groceries, I set up a chart so that I could plan my meals for the whole week and avoid running out of food.
Step Three: Reflection
Day 1 A Utilitarian Stairwell Lunch
I felt hungry very early today, around 11:30 a.m., and recklessly delved into this unappealing can of black beans before noon. Despite its simplicity, eating the beans still felt like a reward.
My strategy for the week was to eat my ingredients individually, rather than combining foods and risking overconsumption early on, a strategy I am considering amending.
An interesting psychological observation: While I normally eat at my desk or with a group of coworkers, I felt embarrassed about my pathetic-looking lunch and took my Tupperware to the stairwell to eat in solitude.
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Day 1 A Routine Breakfast
My ordinary morning routine involves oats and a banana, so this was a familiar and comforting start to the week.
The unfamiliar part of this Tuesday morning was the absence of coffee. My previous attempt at eliminating my liquid energy failed miserably, so I knew I would have to come up with an alternate morning energizer.
I decided to go for a 30-minute jog each morning, and hoped that the exercise, coupled with a cold shower, would simulate my double dose of caffeine.
It also seemed appropriate to incorporate something physical in my day-to-day routine, as people living on SNAP benefits tend to lead very physical lives.