Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Food Stamp Challenge: In Review

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The Food Stamp Challenge is called a challenge for a reason. At points we both struggled to get through the week. But the challenges were different than we expected them to be. Before we went grocery shopping, we expected to eat a lot of junk food to fill us up and that we'd barely have enough food to get us through the week. After all, Mario Batali reported he was "(expletive removed) starving" when he did the Food Stamp Challenge. With A LOT of planning, we were actually able to have three healthy and relatively filling meals each day. We opted for healthier ingredients like whole grains, small amounts of fruit and vegetables, and lean meat; and therefore did not have much money left over for snacks. Although we both missed snacks, we felt better knowing our meals were healthy.

Oatmeal with banana and cinnamon every morning
The real challenge for us was the repetition. We repeated the same meals day after day all week long. By day three, neither of us wanted to look at oatmeal, lentil soup or pasta again. But we were stuck with what we had planned. In a regular week, we rarely eat the same thing two nights in a row, let alone every single meal of every single day. But on a Food Stamp Diet, you don't have the luxury of variety. You have to find the most cost-efficient way to stretch your money, and the easiest way to do that is to buy fewer items in bulk.

Nights 4 and 5: Rigatoni with sauteed spinach and broccoli

After the repetition, the second hardest part was our inability to join our friends in social outings - mainly eating out. We turned down invitations and ate meals before joining friends on the weekend. Although we'd like to report to you that we did a perfect job this week, the truth is that we both were taken out to lunch or dinner two times during the week. While neither of us spent any money at these meals, we weren't only eating the food from our home.

Amanda's Baked Ziti was delicious, but by day 3 we didn't even want to look at it anymore 
We have mixed feelings about our decision to go out eat. On the one hand, the point of this challenge was to put ourselves in the place of individuals who rely on foods stamps and to truly do this. Thus, shouldn't we have eaten every meal with the money we could afford on food stamps? On the other hand, we were quite grateful to have meals provided for us that were much better than what we could afford - and imagine that anyone who is eating on food stamps would feel the same. We would love feedback on this from you guys. Do you think it was okay to accept food that we didn't pay for or did that undermine the challenge?

Ultimately, our objective was to deepen our understanding and raise awareness of the hunger problems in the District. We don't feel this was compromised. Although we cannot pretend to truly understand the real challenge of relying on food stamps, this exercise reminded us how thankful we are that we don't worry where our next meal is coming from. As a way of demonstrating our thanks for what we have, we are both donating a week of groceries to Charlie's Place, an anti-hunger, anti-homelessness organization that provides food, hygiene, and job-searching assistance in DC. If you have the ability, please consider making a donation to Charlie's PlaceCapital Area Food BankBread for the City, or any other organization that provides meals to those in need. Thanks for sticking with us through the week-long challenge!

Happy Thanksgiving,



1 comment:

  1. Interesting challenge especially at this time of year when so many are already struggling to put food on the table and are faced with the holidays to provide special meals and gifts. As for the question you pose on whether it was okay to except a dinner or lunch purchased by a friend, I think it's perfectly okay since, whether on food stamps or not, it's always nice when someone treats you to a meal. People should want to help there fellow human beings no matter what the need is. And food is a basic need, not a want.


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