Last week I decided to take part in the SNAP Challenge alongside many others and the Food Bank for NYC from June 12th-18th to help raise awareness for the upcoming vote that could effect it’s future. For those 7 days, I would have $31.50 to spend on my food (about $1.50 per meal) which is the average amount of money provided to people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
At the end of this post you can read some background information and find resources on the Farm Bill 2013, SNAP Program, and what’s at risk. AKA, the “What’s all the fuss about? Section”
Never one to turn down a challenge, my husband Paul also signed up. He has no qualms about eating the same meal for days on end, so this is likely a factor that will work to his advantage. On the other side of the spectrum, I enjoy pretending the Food Network has hidden cameras set up in my kitchen; every day is a new episode of Chopped, and I never eat the same thing twice in one week if I can avoid it.
Sidebar: “Hey, um, didn’t you already miss this? It’s June 17th.” If that’s what you were just thinking, you’d be correct. Before I even started I hit a road block: I had weekend plans out of town, which meant I’d have to forgo the BBQ and pies and fresh market finds, bring my own food, and basically miss all of the main activities planned. Literally, the first thing we did was put together a brand new BBQ, and the second thing we did was cook lunch on it. So, here is my first realization during the challenge: I really couldn’t go on that trip if I were living on a food stamp budget unless I was willing to let my friends foot the bill. Since I wasn’t, I decided to start the SNAP Challenge today, on June 17th. Judge me if you must, because I already feel like I failed, but here we are: Day 1.
Paul & Rachel Go Shopping
Instead of making a right out of our door to Whole Foods, we turned left and headed to Western Beef. Having grown accustom to eating as much organic and fresh foods as possible, this was our first big change. It just didn’t seem possible to shop there on a budget. I’m looking forward to going in there next week and comparing prices for the same items I purchased at Western Beef; for now, it would just make me sad to 1, see all the food I can’t afford and 2, see all the food I’ve been paying way too much for. <<insert sad walking here>>
I played it safe and left myself some wiggle room for the rest of the week. Contents: Half a chicken, black beans, chick peas, kidney beans, corn, 1 onion, 3 bananas, 1 dozen eggs, 1lb of pasta, and 1 large can of crushed tomato. TOTAL SPENT: $10.97
Paul went in pretty confident, knowing that he’s lived off of chili before and he could do it again, gladly. Contents: Jar of tomato sauce, chick peaks, black beans, small can of crushed tomato, pink beans, milk, 1lb of turkey, tortilla wraps, chili mix, 1lb pasta, box of corn flakes. TOTAL SPENT: $16.52
Day 1 Meals
I had a hard boiled egg and a banana for breakfast. Around 11:30am I “snacked” on another hard-boiled egg. For lunch I ate some bean/corn/onion salad (which will be making numerous cameos this week), and boiled chicken. I used the chicken bones to make a stock which will see some action later this week in a soup. For dinner, spaghetti with marinara. Even though it would’ve been easier to buy a jar of sauce, I just couldn’t. Food stamps or not, Italians don’t do jarred sauce. It’s worth the extra effort to make it from scratch and save a few pennies in the process. I used fresh basil from a plant I have and a lot of hot crushed peppers to hide the fact that I forgot to buy fresh garlic and couldn’t use parmesan cheese.
While I slaved away in the kitchen, Paul had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and BOLDLY picked up some Pad Thai for lunch (that’s minus $8 from his budget). I’m not sure if he’s a genius or just arrogant, but I’m feeling silly for boiling chicken bones all night. For dinner, he made himself about 3 lbs of turkey chili and ate it as a burrito. This will be his lunch and dinner for the next few days.
Day 1 Recap
I’m not hungry, but I wouldn’t say I’m thrilled with what tomorrow looks like: more eggs, more spaghetti, more beans. I also realized quickly that in order to eat during the day, I had to plan out my meals at night and prepare/cook ahead. It’s time-consuming and time isn’t something people always have to devote to cooking.
Food stamps were renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP in 2008; the goal of the program is to help recipients maintain healthy diets by making relatively expensive items like fresh fruits and vegetables accessible to those with low incomes. Since the literal food ‘stamps’ were mostly replaced by Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, food stamp is a somewhat outdated term.
Click headings below to learn more:
About the Farm Bill and proposed cuts
About the Food Bank for NYC & SNAP Challenge
Learn about SNAP eligibility standards and allowances in NYC
See the USDA requirements for eligibility and do the math
Learn the difference between SNAP, WIC, and EBT
TELL CONGRESS TO PROTECT THE SNAP PROGRAM