I have seen these articles a lot in the last year or so. Hollywood stars, CEO’s, people with LOTS of money taking the SNAP Challenge and living off just a few dollars a day for food. This is just the most recent example.
I find this experiment interesting for a lot of reasons. First of all, it does illustrate the plight of the truly poor and hungry. Eating on just a few dollars a day has to be pretty rough. I remember scraping pretty hard when I was a kid. I was nearly 30 years old before I would even touch beans and rice again. Thankfully I have learned to love beans and rice again, but it helps that I like to cook and to experiment with different flavors so when things are tight I can actually be quite happy with beans and rice for at least 4 or 5 days.
However, I don’t believe that the SNAP Challenge truly represents those on EBT food assistance. At least, according to what I saw when I worked as a checker at the grocery store for a summer and what I see when I go to Walmart on the 10th of the month (seriously, AVOID Walmart on the 10th of the month!) But that’s a rant for another day…
No, while I appreciate that the “Haves” are trying to shed light on the plight of the “Have Nots” and I believe they are truly trying to help out in their odd way, the only thing I see truly accomplished when the Haves sign up for and blogs about the SNAP Challenge is that the Haves are abso-friggin-lutely clueless about how to shop for food on a really tight budget. They whine about giving up their Starbuck’s fix and their organic Greek yogurt with hand-made granola topping and eggs from free-range chickens.
The first thing is that all but the very poorest of the poor usually have the most basic of basics around – salt, pepper, flour, a little sugar, a few spices. Hell, if you don’t, steal some salt and pepper and ketchup packets from McD’s, a little taco sauce from Taco Bell. Yup, I was that broke a few times in my life… Ya gotta be resourceful.
So anyway. The Haves just go whole-hog and use/eat NOTHING besides what they can buy on their $4.50 a day. Pretty hard core! OK! They buy the oddest things, too. The guy whose blog I was reading today at least said he drove across the city to the cheapest grocery store that he knew of to stretch his budget. He gets points for that one because so often these peeps still do their shopping at Whole Foods and still insist on some ridiculous purchase that no truly cash-strapped hungry person would ever consider.
Now, if it were me (and it has been me in the past, just without any EBT assistance!), I would start with the local CSA. We have a fabulous program here called Bountiful Baskets. It truly is a shame this is not available in more areas. I get a BOATLOAD of fresh fruit and veggies for $15 a week, plus the weekly co-op fee of I believe $1.50. You can’t begin to touch the quality or amount of fruit and veggies I get in my basket for only $15 if I were shopping at the grocery store. So this guy says he has $31.50 for the week. At this point I would still have $15 to spend for the week. Pasta sauce is $1 at Wally World, and a package of noodles is also $1. Dunno about you, but I can eat dinner for about four nights on that amount of pasta and sauce. Maybe five if I add in some of the veggies I might get in my basket. Careful shopping in the beans and rice aisle will net a pound of beans for around $1.50. Rice is a bit more but still worth it because it really stretches the beans. A pound of beans yields about 8 servings. Think how you could stretch that with a little rice?
My point is that, of course depending on where you live, you can do well enough on a small amount of money. I wouldn’t want to live on this tight budget for a long time but it can be done. Hell, even Ramen noodles can be had 4 for $1, sometimes you get lucky and find a better deal than that. Four meals for $1. Not the healthiest, true, but it’s food.
I believe even those in the true food deserts can eat well if they are willing to plant some community gardens. People have forgotten the basics of growing their own food. It can be done, But, again, that’s another post for another day.
Thank you for indulging my little rant. This is a way bigger issue than a few rich folks pretending to be poor for the week but at least they are making an effort to understand and hopefully that effort will lead to better options for those who truly do struggle to eat every day.