Student-Powered Hunger Relief

SNAP Challenge: Day 1

, November 18th, 2013

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As part of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, our director, Laura Toscano, has decided to participate in the SNAP Challenge. Here are her initial thoughts about the challenge and her meal plan for the week.

Let me begin by saying I have no earthly idea what it’s like to be hungry. Feeding people I love and celebrating with food form a core part of my identity. I’m like an Italian grandmother.

When I started working at The Campus Kitchens Project, I knew I believed in the cause. I loved food and saw its potential as a tool for change, but I also knew that I personally needed some serious remedial education on the issue of hunger. For that reason, I’m taking the SNAP challenge this week.

I’m cooking for two, and plan to do a lot of it. I’m hoping that by drawing on some traditional scratch cooking methods that aren’t used much these days, and by drawing inspiration from a few different food traditions, I’ll be able to eat balanced and healthy meals on this budget. I may be in for a rude awakening on that front.

Here are my rules and promises:

  1. $64.27 is the average weekly SNAP, or food stamp, benefit for DC times two people. This way of calculating benefits for the SNAP challenge is recommended by the Food Research and Action Center. So this is how much I’ll spend this week.
  2. The only food I will use other than what I have bought is basic salt and pepper. No olive oil. No spices. I will use items that I have grown from seed on my windowsill (currently basil and some other small greens).
  3. I will not take free food or drink offered by others or at public events.

I shopped on Saturday afternoon. I decided to leave some shopping for later in the week in case I am running short on funds or have more leftovers than I anticipated. I created a meal plan ahead of time, and my total for the first trip to the grocery came to $46.63. I shopped at my usual grocery store and a Japanese market around the corner.

I’ve learned a few things already. Whether grocery delivery or pickup is offered at your local store or not, looking for food prices online and making a list ahead of time is really useful. Also, where did scales for weighing produce go? I didn’t notice they were gone from grocery markets until I needed one. I was quite a sight for the gentleman restocking the shelves, weighing a whole butternut squash in one hand and a two-pound package of pre-cut butternut squash in the other to try to figure which to buy. In this case, I couldn’t afford the better deal—the whole squash was less per pound, but it weighed a full pound more so it would have blown the budget.

So here’s my meal plan for the week:

SNAP Challenge Meal Plan

I think it’ll be healthy and balanced… I admit it is definitely not low sodium with the amount of miso soup I am relying on. But it is varied, which is important.

We’ll post updates later in the week about Laura’s experience with the SNAP Challenge. To learn more about the Challenge, visit the Food Research and Action Center website.

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