Archive for Monday, November 18, 2013

Food challenge participants prepare for week on food stamp-quality budget

November 18, 2013


To mark National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Nov. 16-24, Just Food is encouraging people to live off the average food stamp benefit in Kansas for their per-day grocery spending, and reporter Chad Lawhorn is taking on the challenge. His family of four will chronicle its experiences planning meals and grocery shopping on the average food stamp budget for their household. Check back often for updates through the week and be sure to check the paper for a final wrap up in Sunday's Lawhorn's Lawrence.

Strolling down the produce section of Checkers Foods grocery store Monday night, Kristie Adair's two young daughters bolted ahead out of excitement at the sight of oranges and clementines and began lobbying for their purchase.

For these edibles, Adair didn't even have to consult her trusty notebook that detailed what she could and could not afford. She knew right away the citrus fruits weren't a possibility.

This isn't quite as dramatic as it sounds. Normally, Adair, co-owner of Wicked Broadband in Lawrence, can provide such items for her family. But this week she and her two daughters — Maurene, 4, and Audrey, 5 — are participating in the Just Food Stamp Challenge, a simulation of living off food stamps for National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

So, Adair can only spend $59.40 on grocery items to feed herself and two daughters for five days.

"It's very challenging," said Adair, whose notebook detailed what to buy, where to buy it and when to eat it. "I've never been very price-sensitive."

Just Food, the organizer of the simulation, held a kickoff event of sorts Monday at Checkers where participants could mingle and shop. The awareness week lasts from Nov. 16-24 and contestants are encouraged to take part for two to five days.

Jeremy Farmer, chief executive officer of Just Food, said more than 70 people have signed up. About 20 people showed Monday night, including elected officials like State Rep. John Wilson and Douglas County Commissioner Mike Gaughan.

As part of the 2009 Recovery Act, Congress temporarily increased the amount of aid delivered to those who subscribed to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. In 2012, the average Kansan in the program received about $4.17 per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But that increase expired Nov. 1, affecting about 11 percent of the state population.

Farmer said those average funds have now been reduced 5 percent, so he chose to allot each participant $3.96 per day to spend on food.

He said the event was organized to bring awareness to what many Just Food clients go through. Participants are encouraged to blog about their experience at Just Food's website.

"Do you be healthy or do you go hungry?" said Farmer, to illustrate the difficulty in purchasing healthy food on such a budget. "That's a question people face every day."

Monday, Adair twice was forced to buy a less healthy brand of food. She said she planned to use salt as her only seasoning for the week ahead.

In the middle of his shopping spree, Gaughan, who is participating for three days, had a half-gallon of milk in his basket, among other things, and said he might have to give it up if he wanted meat.

"I'll try to get by on some pretty basic things," he said.

Dennis "Boog" Highberger, a Lawrence attorney, said he chose to take on the challenge for educational purposes. He said that for a society to be fair and equitable, everyone needs to understand the obstacles some people are faced with.

Adair and Gaughan said they were motivated by spreading awareness.

"I don't think they're thinking about the people in our community when they make decisions about SNAP and other programs that people need in this economy to get by," Gaughan said of state and national legislators.


Matthew Herbert 4 years, 5 months ago

To be fair, it's important to note the program is called SUPPLEMENTAL nutrition assistance program. By its very title it was never meant to be your exclusive means of feeding your family.

John Graham 4 years, 5 months ago

According to USDA data from Sep 2013, the weekly cost for food based on three home prepared nutritious meals per day per person including fresh fruits and vegetables and a snack are as follows in the "thrifty" meal plan level, age 4-5 is $24.60, and female age 19-50 is $37.70. The total for the three in this article would be $86.90 per week. For a five day period this is equal to $62.07.

The costs for the USDA "low cost" food budget the weekly costs are age 4-5 $31.00 and for female age 19-50 $47.40. The weekly total for a USDA "low cost" food budget for this family would be $109.40. For a five day period this is equivalent to $78.14.

From Nov 2013 through Sep 2014, the maximum SNAP benefit for a family of three is $497 per month. Allowing for 4.33 weeks per month this is equivalent to $114.69 per week or $81.92 for the five day period.

Based on USDA data, the maximum SNAP supplement would be sufficient for this particular family of three to buy food at the "low cost" level without any additional money from the family. Since the experiment is limiting the family to only SNAP funds for food then the experiment should use the maximum SNAP allowance to be used. To use the avg SNAP allowance is not fair as the avg recipient has some source of income or the family would be receiving the max benefit. Last but not least the 'S' in SNAP stands for supplemental not sole source of funding for the family's food budget.

Bailey Perkins 4 years, 5 months ago

I do not understand how this is a problem. Each week, I only spend $50, to feed two adults. How do we manage to do this?

  1. Choose recipes.
  2. Determine price for purchasing ingredients for recipes. On average this amounts to $7-$10 dollars on a meal that can last up to 2 days.
  3. Make a menu of sorts and stick to recipes in your price range.
  4. Make enough food to last more than one meal. LEFT OVERS ARE FINE
  5. Buy in bulk. If you buy large bags of beans, rice, flour, etc. You won't need to restock for quite some time.

Living on Food Stamps isn't an option for people who need it, thanks to Brownback, but there's ways around it if you plan ahead. Not to mention it's healthier (and often cheaper) to make you own meals instead of relying on processed foods (which typically cost more).

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