Eating on a Food Stamp Budget: Day Six

SNAP recipients receive EBT (electronic benefit transfer) debit cards to use for their food purchases.

Day Six: “Who’s Hungry?”

On a long car trip when a fast food joint comes into view, someone will shout it.

“Who’s hungry?”

If you walk into your office with a giant pizza box in your hands, you can call out to your co-workers.

“Who’s hungry?”

When the holiday meal is ready after hours of waiting, it’s a summons to gather and share something special – or even sacred.

“Who’s hungry?”

Who IS hungry? This past week, that question has taken on a very different meaning for me.

I’ve been participating in the SNAP* Challenge to experience what it’s like to feed yourself with no more than $31.50 per week. (You can read back through prior blog entries for more about what’s happened so far.) I started out hoping to get a sense of how people on a limited food budget cope with the logistics, limitations and difficulties of making ends meet. I wanted to confront the blind spots in my own admittedly haphazard understanding of hunger, its scope and its impact.

Getting my mind around all of this has been another kind of challenge altogether. I read hundreds of pages of policy and statistical research, interviewed experts, responded to blog posts – then tried to distill down what I’d absorbed into any sort of basic grasp of the who, what, when, where, and why of hunger. I wanted to understand how we as  individuals, a community, and a society make decisions to address the hunger crisis.

“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter,” wrote Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. I agree with him. I swam in knowledge, gained little understanding, and certainly failed this aspect of the challenge I undertook.

I’m writing this post the morning of Day Seven of the SNAP Challenge. In the next few days, I’ll continue to respond to your comments, then I’ll wrap up.

I don’t remember what I ate yesterday, on Day Six, and it doesn’t matter. I haven’t done the math to see if I succeeded in feeding myself on the $31.50 I’d get from food stamps, but that’s no longer the point for me – and that’s exactly the point. People I know, people I care about, people you and I will never meet are struggling. That much, I now understand.

Who’s hungry.

*SNAP is the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. And for many low-income individuals and families, it’s not a supplement; it’s their only means of buying food.

Amy is documenting her experiences with the SNAP Challenge all this week. Check back daily for updates.

Eating on a Food Stamp Budget (Day One)

Eating on a Food Stamp Budget (Day Two)

Eating on a Food Stamp Budget (Day Three)

Eating on a Food Stamp Budget (Day Four)

Eating on a Food Stamp Budget (Day Five)



Filed under Food

10 responses to “Eating on a Food Stamp Budget: Day Six

  1. Christy Beth Kluesner

    Amy, reminded daily by your book perched in my kitchen titled Hungry for Home, for many, food still is a source of pleasure and its presentation can be artful.

    Your eating on a Food Stamp Budget makes all who are readin it mindful that for millions of adults, seniors, and children in our state and country, access to healthful, affordable food remains insufficient!

  2. Judi Howe

    Therre are so many hurdles to shopping economically and intelligently for people who are really on food stamp budgets. Fewer grocery stores where good produce is available, no transportation to get to multiple stores or fresh food markets, which, by the way, is the only way to shop cheaply, grocery stores who raise prices on the very day that food stamps are available to their users. Indeed, who is hungry? What are we going to do about it?

    • Pebbles

      Wow, Judi! I never knew about stores raising their prices on the day food stamps are replenished. So sad, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

  3. Prinny04

    But the day of your replenished food stamps varies by the last name. Stores can’t know that.

  4. Heidi Flick

    Thanks for undertaking this experiment with such insight, Amy. My belly may be full, but my eyes are more open to the daily issues faced by so many people.

  5. Terese

    We are a family of six who recently saw our EBT amount decrease from 300$ a month to 50$. I am now choosing between putting gas in my car, or feeding my family. I dont like being on EBT. It’s embarrassing. I want to be able to pay my own bills. My children attend a private religious school on a partial scholarship. I recently had to talk with our pastor to let him know we couldn’t even pay the small amount that we had said we could. He informed me that my church, which I have attended for 27 yrs, stocks it’s own food pantry which I was welcome to use. He told me no one else ever does. My children are fed, but its out of the goodness of other people. And before anyone asks, my husband works one full time job and three part time jobs. We don’t have cable, we don’t even get the paper. Thank you Amy, for acknowledging people like me. We exist, all around you.

    • Therese, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to keep your family properly fed. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story. May there be better times ahead.

  6. Stephanie

    It is scandalous that at the beginning of the 21st century, there are still millions of people in the US who are below the poverty line. Not only are they hungry, they are often blamed for their situation.
    Amy, please continue to bring these inequalities and injustices to the notice of those people who have never had to give a thought to where their next meal is coming from or where they will sleep tonight, next week or next month.

    • Stephanie, as difficult as conditions can be here, globally things are even more dire. On the next page that wraps up the series, I’ve put some weblinks to organizations that provide hunger relief. Thanks for your comments.

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