A Spiritual Journey into SNAP

One family's experiment living on a food-stamp budget

Score Card—Week 5

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We have completed our fifth week of the Lenten SNAP Challenge: trying to eat—hopefully even eat well—on $147 per week for our family of four. That’s the maximum food stamp benefit for a family of four in our region.  How did we do?

This week we had $12.91 to spare.  If you’re sensing a theme, we didn’t have quite so many responsibilities to others this week. Except for the extra children who appear at the house from time to time, the only others that we fed this week were the students in the paleontology course. They were offered breakfast—bagels, cream cheese and bananas—on their Saturday field trip. It is really the least we could do if we are asking them to depart before the dining halls are open.

The big splurge this week was $28.42 for David and Rose to go out to dinner after Rose’s last gymnastics meet of the season. This is important bonding time for both children and parents, so it was important that they go. And, thanks to our abundance from the food bank, we could afford it!

We seem to do so well with the food bank because what we want most—fresh fruits and veg, whole grain bread, beans and the like—are exactly what others don’t want. They are the ultimate stuff left behind. In this journey of living on a SNAP budget, we’ve cut way down on our fresh fruits and veggies. Where I might normally buy a variety of raw veggies to cut up for lunch box stuffers, I’m now relegated to frozen peas. It works—they love ’em. But that had to go to make our budget. So getting some onions, rutabagas, cabbage, and mountains of broccoli are like packages from heaven. Never mind the oranges! But that gives me pause about what the others are eating.

We have been able to do okay, although we are definitely eating less veg and more grains—and not always the whole kind—than we did before. But we are managing that primarily because of the food bank. And since we get what is left behind and destined for the bin, I wonder what those who left the broccoli behind are having for supper.

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