Open Arms of Minnesota

SNAP Challenge: Shopping Organic

By Jeanne Foels

I chose to take a different focus for my SNAP Challenge: to spend my $30.25 at my local co-op, purchasing only organic items.

This approach may sound a little bourgeoisie. Our knee-jerk reaction is to label co-ops and organic food as accessible only to those with wealth, certainly not the province of the typical SNAP user.

I believe, however, that food is a social justice issue, and organic food – food raised without the use of chemicals – should be accessible to everyone. It’s better for each of us (avoiding ingesting chemicals that could have adverse effects on our health) and it’s better for all of us (protecting our environment, both flora and fauna, from chemical harm).

So I set out to see just how feasible it is to eat organic on a limited budget. And good news: My shopping trip was successful!

I headed to the Wedge Co-op, which is less than a mile from my house, with $30.25 to spend. Thanks to the bulk aisle and some great sale items, I left with enough organic groceries to feed myself for a week – with a few dollars to spare!

I’ll be eating a simple, vegetarian diet with good amounts of protein, whole grains and veggies. My caloric intake for the week will probably be lower than what I’m used to, but it will be good to reassess my typical portion sizes. I’ll hopefully have a full nutritional analysis of my diet before the end of the week.

Disclaimer: There are many, many privileges built into my challenge. Just to name a few: I live near a co-op, I feel comfortable shopping there, I know how to navigate the bulk aisle; I know how to purchase and use whole produce, I feel knowledgeable and comfortable enough to cook, I have a kitchen equipped with necessary tools to cook from scratch, I have the time to plan and cook from scratch; I enjoy eating fresh, whole foods, I do not have food allergies or diet restrictions. I don’t want to minimize these obstacles, because they definitely play a huge part in how people feed themselves.

I realize that organic food can be a hot-button issue, so I look forward to the conversations that might come up this week! I think robust discussion of our food system is a good thing, no matter how you feel about certain issues.


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