A lot of things have happened since Part One of my SNAP Challenge. A lot, a lot, a lot, including the passage of the new farm bill, which was signed by President Obama last month. The bill cut the SNAP program (that’s the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or the food stamp program) by $8 billion over the next 10 years — a compromise between the $40 billion cuts sought by Republicans and the $4 billion cuts sought by Democrats.
Back here in my kitchen, Week Two of my SNAP challenge was a week of classic staples — beans, rice, greens, carrots, mushrooms. A big batch of coconut milk curry was my main dinner staple for the week. Loaded up with white beans, kale, mushrooms and onions and served with white rice, it was good comfort food, but I’ll admit that stretching it through the week meant skimping on portions.
For a second week I was able to get within my SNAP budget, but as was the case in Week One, that budget meant no coffee, no treats, no dinners out. Very small sacrifices to be sure, but they were missed, which yes, says a lot about my own privilege. I’ll have a follow-up post to talk more about SNAP, but my initial thoughts after this little experiment are:
1. It’s possible to eat pretty well within the budgetary constraints of SNAP, at least if you’re a single female with no special dietary needs and no children to feed.
2. The dollar value of SNAP benefits is pretty low, but it is, after all, a supplemental program. SNAP benefits are not meant to be the entire food budget for an individual or family. But how many people use it as a supplement, and how many use it as their sole source of funding for food?
3. It’s possible to a fairly well-balanced, nutritional diet within the budgetary constraints of SNAP — I think. But I’m no nutritionist, and nutrition is an increasingly complex subject, especially in our current food landscape of chemical alteration and genetic modification. Are people in the SNAP program properly informed about nutrition? Are any of us average consumers properly informed about nutrition? Doubt it, for the vast majority of people.
I’ll leave you on that note. Do I have lots of questions? Yep! Do I have any answers? Nope! Do I have a lot more research to do? You betcha. But I think I’ll go eat a bowl of curry while I mull things over.
1 can coconut milk [go ahead, get the full-fat stuff]
2 Tbsp Madras curry powder
2 Tbsp water
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
Whatever fixins you like in your curry: white beans, chickpeas, kale, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes…
Pepper and cumin for additional seasoning
White rice, for serving
Before you start on the curry, get to cooking your rice, so they’re done at the same time. Once your rice is happily cooking away, sauté your garlic, onion, and additional fixins; once they’re just underdone, set them aside in a bowl. Then, add the 2 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of curry powder to the heated pan and stir into a paste. Add additional pepper and/or cumin to taste, if you’re so inclined. As soon as you have your paste, add the coconut milk to the pan and stir. Once the coconut milk is a lovely golden color, add your sautéed fixins, and turn the heat up to high. When the curry starts to simmer, turn it down to medium low and cover the pan. Let it cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve in a big ol’ bowl over the rice!