Oh SNAP!

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Have you heard of the SNAP Challenge?  I just learned about it and starting today, my family and I will attempt it.  SNAP is the fancy name for the food stamp program.  It stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  The SNAP Challenge is a way to see what it is like for the millions of low-income folks that are on food stamps.  The idea is that for one week, my family will live on the same food budget that a SNAP recipient does.  We will learn firsthand about what it is like to try to get by on the average SNAP benefit.  I will need to budget carefully and keep in mind that if I run out of money by Friday, we will just have to go hungry until the next Monday morning.  Obviously, we will not truly understand the daily difficulties that SNAP recipients face.  But this challenge will give us a little but of insight.

I found the guidelines for the SNAP challenge on the Chicago Food Depository website –

Challenge Guidelines

  1. Each person should spend a set amount for food and beverages during the Challenge week. That amount is $35/week or $5/day for all food and beverage. (I have seen this amount online as low as $29/week)
  2. All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including fast food and dining out, must be included in the total spending.
  3. During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchase for the project. Do not eat food that you already own – this does not include spices and condiments.
  4. Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or at work, including at receptions, briefings, or other events where food is served.
  5. Keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of your experiences throughout the week.
  6. Invite others to join you, including co-workers, reporters, chefs, or other elected officials.
  7. Share your SNAP Challenge story. Post updates on Facebook and Twitter and tag them with #SNAPchallenge.

I learned that there are some things you can’t buy with your SNAP allotment.  Off limits are paper products, medicine, alcohol, cigarettes, energy drinks, magazines or hot, prepared food.  You can buy meat, produce, canned items, baby food, cereal, milk and microwaveable meals.

Since there are 6 of us in my family, my weekly allotment would be $174.  I used the $29/week amount since I live in Georgia and I am assuming since the cost of living is less here than in Chicago, the SNAP allotment will be less too.  As of this writing, the amount does not seem too bad to me particularly now that I am a coupon fiend.  I usually spend about $150 – $200/week on groceries.  It just depends on the week.

However, I have the freedom that many people don’t have. If I need to spend more in a week for whatever reason, I do, without even thinking about it.  And that is the difference.  I do have weeks where I spend much more.  Maybe we are having a party, or I’m just really hungry.  Who knows why?  The thing is that I can.

Except, this week, I won’t.  This week, I am committed to not going 1 penny over the $174.  This week, I am going to get a sense of what it means to truly be on a restricted food budget and I am going to see how hard it is to feed my family healthily.  And since I can’t use all of the things I have stocked up on by couponing, this may be a bit more difficult than I imagine.

Wanna join me in this challenge?

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