Thursday, February 12, 2009

Food for Thought

Just doing some sharing with you today.....

Sometime last week I came across an article on CNN about a reporter, Sean Callebs, who is doing an experiment to see if he can live on the amount allowed for a month on the food stamp program (now called SNAP, short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). That amount is $176. The SNAP program was created to provide supplemental funding for grocery expenses however, for many of the program participants, it is the sole source and the number of people applying for assistance is growing due to the economic situation. You can read about his experience throughout the month on his blog. (You may need to select 'read previous posts' at the bottom to see all that he's shared this month.) Food for thought: could you survive on their allotment? For my family of 4, we would get $704/mo. assuming each member would qualify for the $176 amount. I track my grocery expenses (I'm weird like that) and I know we could make it. I spend less than that each month for food, household items and health & beauty aids combined. (I realize the cost of groceries is not constant across the country so it might be more difficult in certain areas.)

And I also read this article from the New York Times about the contestants on The Biggest Loser. I'll admit to you that I watch this show. Why? I'm amazed at the transformations that people make between the first episode and the last episode. Apparently not knowing how to cook is part of the problem (read the article folks). We've become a fast-food, freeze-dried, microwave, artificial food nation. Makes me think that a cooking class should be a required part of all high school curriculums. Better yet, it should be taught in the home. Knowing how to prepare meals from scratch with real food is a life skill that everyone should have.

And, if you know how to cook, does that make it easier to survive on the SNAP allotment? I would think so. Other benefits would include not needing to be a contestant on The Biggest Loser and a reduction in the cost of prescriptions and doctor bills.


Anonymous said...

we are a family of five that eat primarily organic and get by on way less than that amount.

ps. thanks for the email : ) I try to write back soon but I need to get to bed.

Jenni said...

I'm pretty sure my family of five could get by just fine on $700 a month including cleaning products, toiletries, and dog and cat food. I think we spend about that much as it is. Of course that doesn't count dh's lunches while he's working away from home or the school lunches. I know I could squeeze sack lunches and snacks for dh into that budget, though, and I would think that kids whose families qualify for food stamps also qualify for free school lunches.

You're absolutely right that poor habits and not knowing how to cook/plan meals is part of the problem, not just for people on food stamps, but for most people in this country. I'll include myself in that group. I know I could do better. I think this class you're suggesting should be a requirement for food stamp recipients.

While we're at it, could we add financial education to the list? I don't mean that economics class I had to take in high school. I didn't learn anything meaningful for my life in that class. Of course, extra classes are probably not in the budget for most schools right now.

Nancy said...

jenni ~ i think financial classes would be excellent to include in required curriculum but as you said, now there's no budget for it. they should have thought of it years ago.

Lisa said...

I know that we could do it very easily. When we needed help about 4 years ago we were on food stamps for about 6 months(got off of it as soon as we could) and we were a family of 4 and we were getting $587 a month and i had no idea on how to spend that much money! We would get to the end of the month and have $ leftover! We were used to spending so little and all of a sudden our $ for food was doubled. I do remember a lot of people on stamps getting junk food, quick food and a lot of premade stuff which adds to the just depends on what you buy.

Jill said...

I agree with everyone. We would do just great. I spend about $400 a month for my family of 6 (including two ravenous teenagers). I stare in amazement at the people who are buying all sorts of junk that I would never buy and just wonder.

I agree with the basic cooking class in school. At our high school the Beginning Foods class is the default class - if the kid hasn't selected something or if the class they want is full, they get Beginning Foods. Mostly it is because no one wants to take it and there is always room there! Sad.


Anonymous said...

Basic ingredients are so much cheaper than packaged junk. Flour, sugar, pasta, meats, fruits and veggies: It's pathetic that people don't learn how to plan and shop anymore. I don't bake my own bread and I occasionally use something packaged (a frozen pizza now and then, chicken nuggets for the kids, frozen mixed veggies) but in general I do what you do: Plan a menu, shop for those items, and cook every night. Most of what I make can be done in the oven or crock pot with little "active" time on my part or can be made in 45 minutes or less. Not rocket science!

Nancy said...

Lisa~ I appreciate you sharing first hand knowledge. Thank you.

Jill~ how sad that a class which could have life long benefits is the last resort.

Sarah~ I'm all about keeping the "active" time to a minimum.

Imee said...

Good points you have. My family isn't on food stamps but I really think we're spending less than other families at times because we cook and know where to buy good ingredients. We're very health conscious as well.