Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Food Stamp Challenge

EDITED: Mark Bittman has an interesting (short) piece on this here with some good links.

I ran across a post last night about the Food Stamp Challenge. Hosted by Harvesters, a Kansas City food bank, the program challenges participants to live on a food stamp budget for a week. I found this interesting and while I really wanted to participate, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to. So I checked out the guidelines to see how much my budget would be for the week if I were on food stamps.

In order to participate using the guidelines, for a family of 4 (which we would be even though one is an infant and the other is a toddler), I would need to DOUBLE the amount of money I spend a week on groceries.

Did you read that: I spend half the amount of food, household items, and diapers than a family of 4 on food stamps is given.

The problem is that we are giving people food stamps without educating them on how to best use the assistance. I couldn't find any information on shopping or coupon classes in the food stamp website. It almost seems as if we (i.e. We The People) to fail. Ok, we are setting people up to fail, which truly is a shame.

I'd guess that the majority of people on food stamps don't have access to the information I do about sales, couponing, CVSing, etc. The people who need the help the most aren't getting it. If you don't have money for food, you most certainly don't have money for internet access in your home!

Another issue is transportation. We have a car and I can easily drive to as many stores as I need to get the best deals. If you don't have money for food, then you are most likely either walking or taking the bus to the nearest grocery store (at least, that's what I would do!).

The Food Stamp Challenge is a great idea and if I did it on their budget, without using coupons and shopping at the nearest grocery store only, I really don't know if I'd be able to feed my family. I honestly think I could just because I'd stick to sales items and go without things that aren't sale. I'm not sure I could do that every single month, though.

I would encourage you to go check out the guidelines and see how you compare to the food stamp guidelines in spending. I think my budget is most likely way below the national average (whatever that may be) so I'm probably in the minority in needing to increase my budget in order to participate.

2 Thoughts From Others:

Robin said...

We are a family of 5. I am not nearly as disciplined with the coupons, and the research that you are. I primarily shop at 2 stores. Spending $250 every two weeks on everything, groceries, meals out, fees that may come up at school, and fun splurges. I would also need to increase my budget according to their standards. I shop the bogo's at the major grocery food store, but I do 90% of my shopping at Aldi's and a cash only closeout food store. Spending typically $70 a week. :) I think you should start a program educating the people in your area! You can't expect them to follow something that no one is willing to teach. I sense a calling... :)!

Camille said...

Wow, I'm impressed! $70/week and you have 3 kids that are old enough to count towards a food budget. I actually just lowered my budget from $60 to $50/week and I'm doing fine, but I think our food is just expensive in general. No Aldi or closeout stores or even a decent farmers market. :-(

Hmmm... I wonder if I could get a grant for that....

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