Food Stamp Challenge: Reflections on Eating for $32 a Week

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Could you eat for $32 a week?  Since Monday, November 4, Virginia Poverty Law Center staff have been doing just that.  We kicked off our first annual Food Stamp Challenge with shopping trips to area grocery stores and then began the onerous work of making our fares stretch.  Predictably, peanut butter and pasta were staples for most meals, but neither fully fended off hunger and fatigue.

With growling stomachs and a strong urge to nap, we share a few observations from our Challenge experience:

  • EVERY food decision matters when you’re living on a tight budget.
  • Consistent meal planning is key, but it is incredibly time consuming.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are significantly more expensive (and therefore less feasible) than processed food options.  So maintaining a nutritious diet is quite the chore.
  • Work productivity takes a hit when you haven’t had enough to eat.
  • Simple pleasures like eating ice cream, buying coffee, or going out to dinner with friends become virtually unattainable when your budget is severely limited.

While the Food Stamp Challenge does not fully capture the hardship endemic to food insecurity, it does provide a unique opportunity for reflection, empathy, and action.  So to those of you who joined us, we warmly extend our gratitude.  And we encourage everyone to contact their members of Congress in the coming weeks and urge them to protect and strengthen the Food Stamp Program.

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