Stewardship of Life


SNAP to It: The June Food Stamp Challenge

I’m taking part in a challenge, and I hope you will consider doing so, too. Katy Wolk-Stanley, a fellow Compactor who authors the blog The Non-Consumer Advocate has issued a June Food Stamp Challenge. Click here for more information. What this means for me is that my two-person household will be spending $202 or less on food for the month of June, or $3.37 per person/per day. This figure is based on the national average for two people. The maximum amount for two people is $367, which is way more than I would spend without this challenge.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the U.S. economy has been and continues to be in serious trouble. As unemployment rates fluctuate at all time highs, income inequality grows like kudzu, and fear fans the flames, a growing number of Americans are seeking assistance to make it through the month. It’s easy to dismiss this fact, blaming it on politics, bad decision making and poor choices, or even laziness, but until you experience being in poverty or on the edge of homelessness it is difficult to understand the situation. Very few people I’ve met truly want to be homeless or go to sleep hungry. Poverty is a complex issue and one not easily solved over dinner and drinks.

According to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition against Hunger, 49 million Americans are at risk for hunger, and 17 million children live in households where food has run short over the last year. In Philadelphia, 1 in 4 residents is at risk for hunger. In Pennsylvania, where SOLI has its office, 1,579,534 residents received SNAP assistance in March, 2010, a 19% increase from March 2009. This means that almost 1 in 8 Pennsylvanians received some level of SNAP food assistance.

I live in Tennessee, where more than 1 in 6 residents receive some kind of food stamp assistance each month (as of 01/2010), or more than 385,000 families. The figure in Oregon, home of Katy Wolk-Stanley, is 1 in 5 residents. In October, 2009, the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cost $3,705,687,095. In February 2009, the most recent month for which data is available, costs were $5,298,324,614. Click here for access to the entire February report. If you want to know more about SNAP, click here to visit the USDA website SNAP Frequently Asked Questions page.

Why participate in this challenge? First of all, hunger is a justice issue. How can I truly understand what my sisters and brothers are experiencing unless I experience it myself? Secondly, instead of complaining about “government handouts” and what can and cannot be bought with food stamps, and who is deserving of assistance, challenge participants can learn about the choices parents of limited means must make in order to provide healthy food for their families. Hopefully, we can engage in some meaningful dialogue over the next few weeks. Finally, some folks just learn better by doing, and I am one of those people.

On Tuesday, I will post the contents of my pantry and fridge so that you can see where I’m starting and so that I can be held accountable. Then I’ll draw out $177 from my bank account to use for food. I’m subtracting $25 because I usually shop on Saturday, so some of the food that I bought today will be used in the month of June. Is it possible to still get five or more servings of fruits and vegetables, sufficient protein, and healthy carbs on this amount? I suppose we’ll see!

Will you join me on the journey?

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5 Responses to 'SNAP to It: The June Food Stamp Challenge'

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  1. Kris said,

    I’ve been visiting the blogs of some of the other people doing the challenge to see what they have posted about their intentions/how they will be handling it. I was especially confused about how to deal with using my pantry (should I deduct an estimated cost from my budget when I use a pantry item? should I not touch my pantry at all? should I assume that some SNAP users might have a decent pantry built up and use mine without guilt?). Am I correct in understanding that whatever you have in your pantry/fridge is fair game to use without affecting the SNAP grocery budget?

    I’m not really worried about the financial amount of this challenge, I’m more concerned about people reading about what I’m eating and thinking “Has this girl lost all ability to taste food??”. lol. I see food very functionally now, it’s what I use to fuel my body so I’ve most definitely given up my foodie habits of previous years


    • Hi, Kris. I don’t see a problem with beginning with what you would normally have in your pantry. If a person went out today to stock up so that he or she wouldn’t have to make any choices or really live on the budget, then that might be an issue. Also, if a person has a one or two year stock of canned goods and paper supplies, he or she might want to covenant not to touch those items during the month. Most people living on such limited budgets don’t have the luxury of building copious reserves. The idea, I think, is to “experience” the challenge, learn something, gain some good tips (hopefully) for more simple and frugal living, and still manage to eat a healthy diet. If the challenge spurs people to action to help their local food initiatives, food pantries, or to work for change and give of their resources to fight hunger, all the better!

      I tend to agree with you about the functionality of food. That said, I take great pleasure in preparing a meal from scratch and sitting down to eat and enjoy it in the company of family and friends. Some of the best meals I’ve shared at my own home and in the homes of others have been very simple, yet I wouldn’t trade the experience for a trip to a four star restaurant.

      Thanks for joining the conversation and the challenge! I look forward to hearing more from you in the month of June.


  2. […] SNAP to It: The June Food Stamp Challenge […]

  3. Sue Pumplin said,

    There’s a book called “How to Eat Healthy and Well for Less than $5.00 a Day” by Dr. Ilga Winicov Harrington, published by RoseDog books in 2009. It contains menus, shopping lists, and recipes and starts with the assumption that there’s nothing at all in the pantry and that the cook may be fairly inexperienced. It grew from the author’s attempt to provide nutritious and satisfying meals for $5 a day per person, approximately the equivalent of Maine’s maximum monthly SNAP allotment. It seems to be a good resource for inexpensive basic recipes.


    • Thanks, Sue! I’ll have to see if I can find a copy of the book on Paperbackswap or used on Amazon. It sounds like a good one to read.


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