Feed on

Can I eat on $31.50 per week? I’m about to find out. As part of the Community Relations Council of the Louisville Jewish Federation, I began taking part in the Food Stamp Challenge today. The challenge is designed to draw attention to hunger in our community and the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, better known as “food stamps”), by having those unfamiliar with food scarcity try to make it on the average weekly benefit offered to the disabled, elderly, and working poor.

When it comes to food, I’m a weird sort of snob. I’m not the sort to cook with artisanal cheeses or truffle oil, but I don’t eat things like Ramen either. My grains are whole; my produce runneth over; my yogurt is organic; and I avoid all meat, dairy other than yogurt, and processed foods with high sodium and fat content. I also eschew another source of cheap food: I’ve eaten at a Taco Bell maybe once in the last fifteen years (under protest), and the last time I ate at McDonald’s it was in Tel Aviv in 1994, also under protest.

Yes, I know how insufferable this makes me sound.

Yesterday’s trip to the grocery was enlightening. The avocado roll I bought at the grocery-store deli cost $4.99. That’s 50 cents more than my allowed daily budget. The jar of peanut butter is also more than a full-day’s allotment. Simon’s organic bunny crackers? Almost a full day. A tub of organic plain yogurt? Ditto. Most produce is out of my budget, too.

So I have two choices.

  1. I can buy tons of junky food and feel terrible on a full stomach while elevating my blood pressure and cholesterol.
  2. I can buy dry beans, bulk grains, make my own yogurt from non-organic milk, and buy the cheapest veggies available. Even then, I’m not sure I can pull it off.

Tomorrow I’m going to Aldi for the first time ever to see what I can find. Today I had to make do with what I could find at Kroger.  What I expect to learn is that the poor have two choices: eat food that’s terrible for you or eat (not quite enough?) food that takes lots of planning and time to prepare. That’s my hypothesis anyway. I’ll checkin mid-week and at the end to update my progress.

I’m also allowing myself one tiny cheat: I’m not giving up my tea. Until Wednesday…

Coda: I’ve had some problems lately with feeling dizzy when I change positions quickly. Think getting out of bed, getting off a piece of pilates equipment, etc. Now I know why: I took my blood pressure while waiting for a prescription at CVS earlier, and it was 102/68. Perhaps a week of high salt foods wouldn’t be so bad after all!



3 Responses to “The Food Stamp Challenge: Part I”

  1. blg says:

    Are you looking for ideas, or just my whole hearted support?

  2. Jessica says:

    Ideas! Any and all are welcome. Today I had Greek Yogurt ($1) for breakfast, Udon soup for lunch ($2 and prepackaged, so a splurge), and curried lentils with brown rice (from scratch, with the canned tomatoes the recipe called for but without the other veggies) for dinner ($1.26). If I can knock 50 cents off breakfast or lunch, I can add an energy bar to the daily menu. Needless to say, the only thing I’m drinking—besides tea—is water.

  3. Amanda says:

    I love Aldi’s. You can’t find everything there, but basics are just as good and much cheaper than the grocery. The guy who owns it is the brother of the guy who owns Trader Joe’s and it works on the same principles.

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