SNAP Challenge Georgia

Back in the 70's, my high school science teacher, Mrs. Vredeveld, assigned our class Diet For a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe. The book stressed eating lower on the food chain — grains, legumes and nuts — so that our agricultural land could be used to provide more food for people world-wide.

Diet for a Small Planet provided my first exposure to healthy meals that were not based on the traditional meat and two veggies. As part of our 10th grade class, we cooked a meal for the entire school using the book’s plant-based recipes. I was fortunate to have a remarkable teacher who not only taught me how to dissect a frog, but also how we could more efficiently use our country’s resources to help feed the world.

Recently, The Georgia Food Oasis, a collaborative group of organizations in Atlanta, promoted the Wholesome Wave Georgia SNAP Challenge by inviting individuals to live on a typical Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food budget of $4.17 per person per day for a week. My spouse and I discussed this challenge, which runs from May 10–17, and decided to give it a try.

Why participate?

My spouse has been a life-long supporter of organizations that reduce hunger through direct services. I grow vegetables and donate the produce to food pantries and meal programs for the chronically ill living with poverty. Through participating in this week-long effort, we hope to better understand food insecurity. With our improved understanding, we can more effectively support food security within our community.

Typically, our vegan household shops primarily at the DeKalb Farmers Market, particularly for bulk purchases of legumes and grains. We supplement our Dekalb Farmers Market trip by visiting small, neighborhood farmers markets near our home and buying vegetables, fruit, and bread directly from local farmers and artisans.

Create a Meal Plan

My family starts the week by choosing recipes and creating a meal plan, then making a shopping list based on our meals. Creating and following through with a SNAP weekly meal plan requires individuals to have:

  • the time and wherewithal to choose recipes for the week;
  • reliable transportation to a grocery store;
  • calculator, or paper and pencil, to estimate the grocery bill as items are placed in the shopping cart;
  • safe kitchen stocked with pots, pans, cooking utensils, working stove, functioning oven, fridge and freezer;
  • cooking skills and
  • time to cook.

Our SNAP Challenge Meal Plan
May 10–17

Breakfast
Steel-cut oatmeal with strawberries or bananas

Lunch
Leftovers from the night before

Dinner

Lentils and Rice with Fried Onions
Onions sautéed in olive oil and caramelized

Black Bean and Corn Burrito
(Dried black beans soaked and cooked at the beginning of week)

Vegetable Soup
Made with Kroger’s mixed vegetables (<$1.00 for frozen veggies)

Tofu and Rice
Sauce made from brown sugar and soy sauce

Chickpeas and Couscous
Dried chickpeas soaked and cooked earlier in the week

Sweet Potatoes, Black Beans and Skillet Greens
Organic kale finished with fresh garlic and a drizzle of olive oil

Pizza with Mushrooms and Sweet Onions
Homemade crust made with yeast

Drinks
Black coffee in the morning
Water with other meals

The SNAP Challenge has three participation guidelines to follow:

  1. All food purchased and eaten from May 10–17, including food purchased dining out, is counted in total spending
  2. Avoid consuming food purchased prior to the start of the SNAP Challenge
  3. Whenever possible, avoid accepting free food from family, friends and coworkers

After looking over our meal plan and shopping list, we decided Kroger would be our best shopping venue for this week. At Kroger, we could find the majority of the food items we needed at the lowest price. With any money left over, we would visit our favorite farmers at the local market for a fresh vegetable or two.

Does Anyone Use a Shopping List?

In addition to our shopping list, we brought a calculator with us to the store. We evaluated brands and options for the items on our list. Each time we placed food in our cart, we deducted the price from our total budget for the week. We were determined to have sufficient healthy food to sustain us through the week.

As we went up and down each aisle, we saw at least 50 other shoppers. Only one other shopper was clearly using a shopping list. Other customers did not appear to have a written list in hand or one on their phone that they were checking periodically.

Does the lack of a visible shopping list indicate that people are:

  • not planning meals for the week?
  • not cooking?
  • only picking up a few ingredients for a meal that night?
  • buying only packaged or prepared food and making decisions as they wheel their cart through the aisles?
“What percentage of American shoppers create a meal plan for the week and use a shopping list at the grocery store?”

After we finished shopping at Kroger, we stopped by our local farmers market. We bought a large bunch of organic kale at $4 fromCosmos Organic Farm and a pint of incredibly sweet organic strawberries for $5 from The Brightside Farm.

Groceries for two for the week of May 10–17 during the #SNAPChallengeGA

Cooking

We started cooking on Sunday, May 10th. Instead of trying new recipes, we relied on familiar ones.

For those seeking new recipes, the Food Oasis recently posted a link to a cookbook, Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day by Leanne Brown. The cookbook offers a wide variety of recipes for those eating on a limited budget and can be downloaded at no charge.

This afternoon, we’re almost half-way through the SNAP Challenge. We have enough food for the week and I’m confident we’ll be able to sustain our energy for the remainder of the week. There’s no room for error with this budget and no buffer for buying impulsive treats like a chocolate bar or a peanut butter cookie.

By the time I finish the Georgia SNAP challenge, I anticipate having three guidelines of my own to share with any future SNAP challenge participants.

Originally published at gardengrid.org on May 12, 2015.

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