This is the third in a series of posts about Catholic Charities’ participation in a nationwide initiative known as the “Food Stamp Challenge.” Those taking part in the challenge must live for a week on a food budget of $31.50 total — the average allotment for an individual on Food Stamps.
By Richard Bertin
I’m taking the Food Stamp Challenge. And I think you should too. That’s right — for the next week, I will be subsisting on the food budget of someone on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistant Program (SNAP), more commonly known as “Food Stamps.” We are so used to hearing about starving populations in underdeveloped countries that we can be fooled into thinking that this doesn’t happen in our own backyard. Well it does. Nearly 50 million American families are food-insecure.
I hope that by taking this “Food Stamp Challenge,” I’ll be able to gain an emotional and physical perspective on our nation’s hunger crisis. It’s easy to talk about stats and figures, but it’s another thing to actually experience what poverty means, and feels like.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it, but when I first moved out of my parents house I was used to relying on dollar menus and ramen noodles to get me through the week, so I feel that I’m prepared.
If you’ve been following the challenge, you know the rules. I have $31.50 to spend on food for the entire week – the average weekly allotment for an individual on food stamps. That means no more office coffee and donuts for me, no other free food – including those chocolates my boss gives out every now and then – and definitely no restaurants.
Participants can use coupons to shop, but can’t eat any items already in the fridge or pantry as part of the food supply for a total of 7 days.
My Shopping List
Since I’ve been asked so many times, I’m sharing my shopping list for the challenge. Just for fun, I also kept track of the expenses of my “last meal” that I had before I went shopping – ironically, I spent $31.25 on a meal for two of burgers and fries at a popular burger shop near my school, New York Burger Co.
Then, I went to my neighborhood Pathmark in the Coop City area of the Bronx and ended up with the following:
- (5) cups of Yoplait Yogurt (5 for $4)
- Florida’s Natural Orange Juice (no pulp!)
- Organic peanut butter by some brand I never heard of
- Loaf of bread that was packaged in a design strangely similar to Wonder Bread.
- (2) bowls of Annie Chun’s Ramen Noodles (Say what you about ramen noodles, but Annie Chun is in a totally different class!)
- (2) Cans of soup (vegetable barley was .99 cents each)
- Box of “Pathmark” branded granola bars
- 5-pack of Chiquita apple slices & dip
The total of all this was $24.77, which leaves me with $6.73 for “emergency funds.” My strategy was to only spend close to $25 so that I can have at least some cash left over so I can treat myself to a quick NY hotdog or slice of pizza.
Throughout the next week, I’ll be answering your questions about the challenge here and on Facebook – just leave a note on the wall, or a comment below, and I’ll answer you as best as I can.
Please leave your words of advice or encouragement below – I’ll need it!