This week several of us here at Georgia Organics are taking the SNAP Challenge, which means for seven days we’ll eat using the average food and drink budget of someone on SNAP*, which is $4.50/day. Why?
For starters, we think it’s important to have an accurate idea of what SNAP is and what it entails. What kind of food is available on this budget? I haven’t done a great job of planning my menu for the week, and just planned to throw together the cheapest meals I know how to make without doing any calculations about how much each serving would cost. Today for lunch I ate wheat linguine and a can of clam sauce that has been in my cupboard since Pluto was still a planet. This is not an expensive meal! But it’s one that ends up costing $2.50/serving, a full dollar more than I’m allotted for lunch.
If you’re on SNAP, you have to plan really hard to make that money stretch into healthy meals. Also, lots of internet commenters will not like you! They will think you are lazy and entitled!
Which brings me to the second reason we’re taking the challenge: the pervasive lack of empathy for those who depend on nutrition assistance to feed themselves and their families. Homes with children or someone who is elderly or disabled receive 83 percent of all SNAP benefits, and 90 percent of all benefits are claimed by day 21 of each monthly period. This means the vast majority of people using SNAP continue to struggle with hunger.
In the policy world, we throw around terms like “food insecure” and “nutrition assistance,” but a less jargon-y way of putting it is that there are people who are hungry, and we need new systems to insure that our under served populations—our children, elders, veterans and disabled—are able to feed themselves nutritiously. We believe farmers are an important part of that solution. We believe you are, too.
Are you interested in taking the SNAP challenge? You can! Community Farmers Markets and Wholesome Wave Georgia, two groups who work incredibly hard to feed communities across the state, are leading SNAP Challenge efforts in Atlanta. The Athens Farmers Market and the Rockmart Farmers Market are also participating. The three markets that CFM runs—the Decatur Farmers Market, the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, and the Grant Park Farmers Market—all double SNAP and WIC dollars through Wholesome Wave, which does the same thing at markets across the state.
CFM is raising money this week to support their markets’ SNAP benefits program, and they’re also offering chef demos and guidance on planning healthy meals on a budget.
Living for one week on a SNAP budget will not end hunger in America, but we hope it will give us a chance to talk about the systems that cause it and an opportunity to share ways we all can help reduce it. Knowledge and experience breeds empathy, and those three are powerful, necessary guideposts to change.
*SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; it used to be commonly known as food stamps.