The Food Stamp Diet
With all of the talk about The Food Stamp Challenge, issued by The Oregon Food Bank and taken up by Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski, this past April, I just can not help but, wonder about the impact that living on $3 a day, makes on the 25 million American families that are being fed on that amount.
For those who may not know, $3 is the National average received by the many families currently relying on food stamps to feed their families. According to Toledo’s news station, ABC Channel 13, Ohio’s Food Stamp usage has increased by 71% in the past 6 years, 1.1 million Ohioans are currently receiving food stamps and it is estimated that 500,000 more may be eligible for the program, but have not applied. These startling numbers may be partly due to the fact that the usage of debit cards has reduced the stigma involved in using food stamps, but it is also offers a glimpse of our local economy. “A majority of these families are working families, and I think the public really needs to hear that,” said Laura Holton, community services director of the Fairfield County JFS. “Our unemployment rate might not be that bad, but the wages just aren’t enough.”
As I consider the various circumstances that may have led a family to applying for food stamps and the many children who have no choice, but to be fed on that amount, my heart just aches and I can not help but wonder how many of them went to bed after an entire day of eating inexpensive highly processed and refined foods or worse yet, very little at all… How many of them are sleeping under a roof with two parents? How many of them belong to and are growing up in the ever increasing number of working poor families who have to work very long hard hours and sometimes two jobs to make ends meet, often only managing to barely scrape by. How much of their time is spent obsessing about food and wondering where their next meal will come from? Last but not least, what in the world do you feed a family with no more then $21 per person a week?
With those thoughts in mind, my husband and I have decided to participate in the highly publicized, Food Stamp Challenge. As we do so, we will spend the week focusing on what we can do within our local community to help support organizations that focus on offering aid and assistance to those who are literally hungry for it. Our plan is to begin the challenge on Sunday and will follow the Oregon Food Bank’s suggestion of imagining our pantry is bare and that the $42 we would technically receive on food stamps will be needed to start from scratch.
In order to keep this experiment as realistic as possible we have decided to adopt a few other stipulations that are no doubt, common variables currently shaping the lives of many who seek out the help of government assistance. For one we are going to consider the need for public transportation, the ever rising cost of gas, and the type of vehicle that a minimum wage paying job would afford us. Eating local in this case will be imperative, however it will more often then not mean shopping for affordable food within a 5 mile radius of our home. Because many at poverty level often have to work long, odd/irregular hours, not to mention those performing manual labor, we are choosing to limit our shopping to a minimum of 2 locations and will keep our menu as simple as possible. As for food preparation, I think it is fair to say that to truly relate, my Kitchen Aid Mixer, favorite gadgets, small kitchen appliances, and cookbook collection should probably go unused for the week. Also in keeping with the theme, food preparation will be focused on quick, recipes that do not require much time or effort, basically meals that require no more then 15 minutes of active prep time. Last but not least, reflecting on the rising costs of health care and the fact that having to go to the doctor for a prescription can be a major financial set back for many families, attempting to eat healthy well balanced meals as much as possible will be a natural part our my focus. Oh, and the hitch, we are going to try to incorporate as many natural, organic, and sustainable foods into my grocery list as possible without breaking the bank, running out of food, and having to use our pocket change to stock up on Ramen Noodles. To be honest, we are not even sure that it is possible on a food stamp budget, but we definitely think it is worth a try.
This upcoming Sunday will be the first day of the challenge for us and I will be recording our thoughts and progress daily.
In the meantime, be sure to take a peek at the Blog of Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, who is currently embarking on The Food Stamp Challenge and recording his experiences as he does.
If you have not already, please take a moment to contemplate the implications of the challenge and what you would do if you had to feed each member of your family on no more then $1 per meal. Could you handle the challenge?