Sunday, November 11, 2012

Food Stamp Challenge -- Day Four

The Sacramento Housing Alliance's stated purpose for organizing the 7-Day Food Stamp Challenge is to help raise awareness about hunger in our region. Their Facebook page has also provided valuable information about the importance of food banks when people can't make their food last until the end of the month; the existence of areas known as food deserts, where it is difficult for people to easily obtain healthy food; and today, Veterans Day, shocking information about the number of veterans that are in danger of becoming homeless and going hungry.

But beyond the knowledge I've gained about food policy and politics, I've also received a few personal benefits from the challenge:

1. It's taught me to value the food that I have and to try to do a better job of avoiding waste. I've decided to keep a plastic bag in the freezer for all of my vegetable peels and ends so that whenever I know I'm going to make something requiring vegetable broth, I can make my own, rather than buying expensive processed broth at the store. It's also forced me to find ways to use up some of the produce that generally goes bad in my refrigerator, such as the cabbage and celery I buy for my minestrone soup. Since it's not possible to buy just a little bit of these vegetables, I'm happy to have found that I actually like celery sticks with peanut butter, and I really, really like that potato, cabbage, and garlic hash that I accidentally made.

2. I've discovered that, if necessary, I am capable of making do with less. What remains to be seen is whether I will try to make do with less when the challenge is over, which would free up money for things that really matter.

3. I've learned that it's possible to get by without drinking wine every night. Another lesson that, if continued after the challenge ends, would also free up money for the important things.

4. I'm pretty sure I've lost a couple of pounds, although I won't know for sure until the challenge is over.

Still, after four days, I'm starting to get a little tired of the challenge. I'm well-fed, but the monotony of my food choices is starting to set in. Of course, I'm only committed to three more days of this challenge, while food stamp recipients face the challenge every single day.

Except for breakfast, today's meals were leftovers, which isn't as pathetic as it sounds. After all the cooking and dishwashing I did the first two days of the challenge, it's nice to have leftovers that I can just microwave. So here's what I ate today:

Breakfast was once again rice, this time with vanilla rice milk, raisins, and cinnamon sugar. I had half a Valencia orange and a cup of tea with lemon.

Lunch was a bowl of minestrone soup, carrot sticks, and a glass of iced tea with lemon.

Dinner was a baked potato filled with chili, half a tomato with a little salt, and a glass of ice water.

Three days to go...


Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting project. I wonder thoughif it would help to get a better picture of all of the options that you could source. For instance, could you go to a food pantry and get a box, them use your food stamps to fill in with more fresh vegetables or other things? Is this typically the ONLY source of food or does the typical food stamps recipient have some income from a job? If you have children, they may receive a free breakfast, lunch and in some places early dinner - how does that affect your food stamps allocation if at all? Can you roll over any extra dollars or cents to the following month?

Pam said...

Those are all good questions. I assume many food stamp recipients visit the local food bank from time to time to supplement their food stamps. Also, eligibility for the CalFresh program doesn't require an applicant to be jobless, just low-income, so I assume many food stamp recipients have jobs that don't pay enough money to make ends meet. The guidelines set by the Sacramento Housing Alliance for this challenge basically require participants to spend only $34.30 for a week's worth of food and beverages, and to eat or drink only what they've purchased with their $34.30. Presumably people who are actually receiving CalFresh benefits have other options available to them as well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Pam. I am looking forward to watching the rest of your week play out. There are some great meal opportunities with the beautiful fall squashes that add a ton of flavor to soups, rice and pasta dishes too.

I wonder if SHA will be happy to see the many beautiful menus that you have created within the budget though. It might defeat the intent of the challenge...

Pam said...

I certainly don't want to defeat the intent of the challenge. I realize that it's easier for me to do this for a week than it is for a food stamp recipient to do it indefinitely. I only have my appetite and food preferences to consider, rather than those of a whole family. I have access to transportation so that I have a choice as to where I shop, and I have lots of time, which gives me the ability to cook from scratch. But I do hope that I'm demonstrating how economical veganism can be, since so many people seem to think that going vegan means buying lots of fake meats and fake cheese. My protein sources this week include beans and peanut butter, which are nutritious, inexpensive, and tasty.