SNAP- Taking the challange

A few weeks ago I was reading random news on my face book feed about how some Democratic congress people are trying to eat off of $4 a day. I don’t know how they did their math and got their numbers, and was not impressed by their food choices but I appreciated the point they were trying to make.

I believe the whole point of the exercise is to eat off of what SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients would eat off on a day by day basis. I guess they did this for a week in protest to some legislation trying to cut the funding to the program.

I have friends who work hard, have jobs and are using nutritional assistance, because they just can not make ends meet. That little bit of assistance they do get on a monthly basis is usually their whole food budget, there just is not wiggle room for anything else. I think when used correctly it is a very important program. My concern is that people who receive this assistance do not have enough money to properly feed their family a healthy, whole food diet.

I am going to attempt the SNAP challenge with my family, but we are going to cheat a bit. Maybe not cheat so much as eat on the very most money the government would give a family of four. I say we are a family of four because I am 30 weeks pregnant and am eating for two. Really if you saw our grocery bill you might say it was for more than two, but my weight gain says otherwise (thankfully).

According to the USDA the average monthly benefit families received from sap is $287 a month. Fourty percent of SNAP households receive the maximum monthly benefit of $668 a month for a family of four. This amount is for people on SSI and disability, and 20% of them are employed.  For complete SNAP statistics see reports here: http://www.fns.usda.gov/ora/menu/Published/snap/SNAPPartHH.htm .

This is the number we will be using in our experiment. The reason I decided to use the maximum benefit amount is because this must be the number the government assumes a family of four can eat healthfully off of and should be able to spend on a monthly basis.  I assume part of the process of getting an approval amount is taking into consideration house hold income and what the family “should” be able to afford to spend. Lets not get into how a lot of these calculations are unrealistic and just say $668 a month is our food budget for the month of February.

That is for four people, so that breaks out to $5.98 per day per person this month. As far as I know you can not eat out on food stamps so that is not an option in our budget. We have $167 a week to get us through. My goal is to eat whole foods including meat (hormone and antibiotic free at least, ideally organic and grass-fed as well but I wont hold my breath on that one), fruits and vegetables (organic on the “dirty dozen” at least http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/dirty-dozen-foods#fbIndex1), yogurt, organic dairy, whole grains (we are gluten-free so add that to the expense category), and “real” non chemically processed “food”.

My plan is to shop sales where I can find them and not to compromise my family’s health by reducing our food budget. We do already have gluten-free flours and grains at home because of the big sale at Sprouts last week, but otherwise will not be using fruits, veggies, or meat that we have sitting around the house. Mostly because it will all be eaten before then.

Menu planning will be key and a big challenge for me. I am not a planner. It will be nice though to see if we can fit our food budget into this number though. We spend an average of $800 a month on groceries at the moment. By making our own whole foods, and buying less pre-packaged stuff I hope to be able to reduce it to $600 a month. Hopefully this summer when the CSA’s are up and producing we can get down there! I also can not wait until I am able to have a garden again and grow some of our own food.

Have you done the SNAP challenge? What was your experience?

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5 responses to “SNAP- Taking the challange

  1. Good luck Amanda, I used to feed a family of 5 on $300 a month when they were young and we were very poor. Good thing everyone liked beans and tortillias and soups! It was really tough at the end of the month… the Army’s pay didn’t quite make it that long sometimes. With some effort, few treats and mostly unprocessed foods you should get there. Keep us posted!

  2. Good luck, Amanda! You can eat well and healthy with that budget, I promise! With help from a few local farmers who give us what produce they can for what we can pay and making more and more from scratch (basically, avoiding almost all of the middle aisles at the grocery store), we actually spend less than the allotted amount for a family of four, although we are still just a family of three. I’m really excited to see how you do with this!

  3. Hi, Amanda! I think it’s a great idea and love the thought going into it, but wanted to clarify a few things: the max amount is for a family of over four and often they are receiving cash aid alongside that for about 700/ mo. This could be different, but I worked as an eligibility worker in CA so this is what I saw. I honestly think 668 for a family of three going on four is really cushy and doesn’t seem challenging (but perhaps I am used to being cheap, haha). When my husband was laid off we received benefits for about 4 months. It was 179 a month for four people. Seemed pretty average.

    • I think that calling it “cushy” is a completely fair assessment. I am just going off of what I found with the USDA data. From what I have heard from personal stories it seems the average is around $250 a month for a family of 3-4. These people all have other income coming into the family. Like I said I am just going off of the data the USDA provided. I will see how far under that budget I can come though while still providing my family the nutrition it needs to maintain optimal health.

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