By Kevin Winge
Let’s get a few things about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on the table right away.
Yes, the fact that the word “supplemental” is in the title implies that the SNAP program, formerly known as food stamps, is intended to be just that; a supplement to assist Americans who are hungry.
And, yes, $30.25 a week is just an estimate of what an average Minnesotan receives in SNAP assistance per week. Some individuals receive more, some less.
And, yes again, a person can live on that amount, $30.25, a week for food.
But it’s not that simple.
More than 583,000 Minnesotans do not always know where their next meal is coming from. According to the United States Department of Agriculture and the Census Bureau, 49 million Americans live in food insecure households. No doubt, many of these people probably have access to some other source for food. Maybe there is food in their kitchen pantry, or they have some money to spend on groceries, or there is a neighborhood food shelf, or friends and family assist them. But, there are others who rely on SNAP for the majority, or all, of their food.
There are many reasons for this. The shelves and refrigerators in some kitchens are bare. Many people lack transportation to food shelves. Others live a great distance from grocery stores. Some are elderly, some are dependent children, some are ill and many are unemployed.
It’s possible to eat healthy on $30.25 if you live near a co-op, or a farmer’s market or a grocery store and if you have a basic understanding of nutritious food and how to stretch your budget. It’s also possible to live on $30.25 by filling your belly with empty calories that don’t provide energy and contribute to obesity and diabetes. It’s possible to do this for a single week as part of a social experiment. Doing it for real, week after week, is the real challenge.
The purpose of the SNAP Challenge, living on the equivalent of $30.25 for one week, is to raise awareness of food insecurity in the United States. It’s also a great way to experience, in a very small way, what those 49 million food insecure Americans go through every day.
Just like last year, I will be taking the SNAP Challenge and living on $30.25 from November 17 until Thanksgiving morning. This year, I’ll shop as though I don’t have transportation and have to rely on my nearest convenience store, Walgreens, for my food for the week. Between now and Thanksgiving, I’ll once again be blogging about my experiences living on SNAP. If you’ve never gone hungry, or had to worry about where your next meal might come from, you should join me and take the SNAP Challenge yourself.