Thursday, July 22, 2010

What's it Like When the Hunger Challenge Never Ends? A Family Living on Food Stamps

Hunger Challenge participants are lucky - we only have to live for seven days on a food stamp budget. For many people, it's just life, non-stop, with no end in sight. Here's a National Public Radio series about a family from Carlisle, PA, struggling to make ends meet. They live on an income of $18,000 and have to stretch $600 in food stamps to feed two adults, an eight year old boy and two teenage girls.

Aired: July 19, 2010 (9:01)

July 20, 2010 (6:58)


Susan said...

I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. I feed my family of six (we do not receive food stamps) on a monthly budget of $500 (actually, it's closer to $450, and I could actually get it down to under $400 with a little extra work, but let's be generous and round up).

What's my secret? Well, it's not gardening; we don't have a garden. Nor do I coupon, and I don't have the time to comparison shop at different stores, either. I do not base my menus around sales flyers, and I don't keep a "price book".

So how do I do it? Well, I have two monthly well-thought-out B/L/S/D menu plans that I rotate. They provide us with a full protein at every meal, a snack once a day, hot breakfasts, and a "special meal" (with wine and dessert!) once a week. I'd guess the calorie count per person would be in the 1500 range. Most of the carbs are complex.

I'd be happy to share my meal plans (for free) with anyone who would like to see how eating well on less than $100 per person per month can be done. We've been doing it for two years now. Just send me an e-mail at nsbedwell @ and ask for them. Or perhaps the Hunger Challenge blog would allow me to post them here (again, for free)? It would certainly allow many more people to eat well on food stamps -- which I assume (hope) is the goal.

P.S. I forgot to mention that that $500 includes our cleaning and personal products, like shampoo, bath soap, laundry detergent, etc. I shop at Aldi. If you don't have an Aldi nearby, you can get everything on my menu plans at Wal-Mart for about $600 per month. I don't know what the price tags would come to in NYC or SFO or LAX or CHI, but in Raleigh, having done a little planning at the beginning, $500 a month is enough for our family of three adults and three teenagers to have a varied, healthful, good-tasting, quick-and-easy-to-cook diet.

I'm looking forward to taking the Hunger Challenge this year and blogging about it. I'll definitely put up Youtube videos: I hope to inspire people to save money while eating healthy, by simply thinking differently about how they shop and plan their meals.

Leslie said...

My family received food stamps while my husband was in grad school in Ohio. I did use coupons (coupling coupons with sale prices) and we also received WIC. We consistently spent only half of our allowance for a family of 4. My total grocery expenditure per month, including diapers and personal care items was $400. Very similar to Susan's experience(although I have requested her plan, because she's figured out how to do it more cheaply.)

One point regarding Food Stamps is that there are no nutritional guidelines, except exclusions, as to how it should be spent. With WIC you can only buy designated items in particular amounts based on your family's need. If the Food Stamp program were similar, nutritional objectives would be met and cost could be controlled. You can use coupons with both WIC and Food Stamps, but few people do.

I know life makes major demands on the population that typically qualifies for Food Stamps but, from my experience, a lot can be done to make what is provided more than amply meet your needs.

San Francisco Food Bank said...

Thanks for your comments! We did email you, because we'd be quite interested in receiving your plan - but we didn't hear back from you.

It's important to remember that there may be some regional food cost differences that work to your advantage vs. San Francisco - and other expenses, like housing and gasoline, here can be astronomical compared to the rest of the country. But all that aside, we're sure there are some very helpful menu tips you have to share!