Policy Post // SNAP Challenge
As Congress inches closer and closer to passing the farm bill, it looks likely that funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, for short, or food stamps, if you prefer) will be cut by approximately $9 billion; this figure would be a compromise between the $40 billion cuts championed by Republicans and the $4 billion cuts championed by Democrats. Congressional leadership has recently indicated a renewed focus on passing the long-overdue farm bill, so hopefully, we’ll get an answer on the state of SNAP spending by the end of January.
While we wait for the Congress to compromise and cut deals to get the farm bill through, I wanted to get a more practical understanding of SNAP, and so, enter the SNAP Challenge. The “SNAP Challenge” is an initiative primarily championed by the Food and Action Research Center that gained a great deal of media attention right around the beginning of 2013, when two dozen Democrats pledged to restrict their individual food budget to $4.50 per day based on the reported average benefits that SNAP participants receive.
I’ll spend two weeks following the guidelines of the challenge, and since I do my grocery shopping on Thursdays, my challenge will go from January 23 to February 6. Over those two weeks…
1. My total per-week food budget will be $31.50 (that’s $4.50 per day, or about $1.50 per meal).
2. I’ll only purchase things that are authorized for purchase with SNAP benefits; no alcohol, no meals from restaurants, etc.
3. I won’t use any food that I purchased pre-challenge, or accept any free food (I’m thinking this rule will be he hardest to follow).
In addition, I have a couple of self-imposed rules that I’m going to follow:
1. I’m going to make a concerted effort to plan flavorful meals that don’t skimp on nutrition, because I want to see just how far $4.50 a day can go.
2. I’ll spend the first week using recipes from the SNAP-Ed recipe database, just to get a feel for how the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends spending SNAP benefits. I’ll go rogue the second week, and make up my own recipes, based on what worked (and what don’t) in the first week.
I’ll be using some of these questions posed by Feeding America to guide posts about my SNAP Challenge, and I’ll keep a thorough record of what I buy, what I make, and how much it costs.
Thanks in advance for following along, and I’m now accepting any and all cheap (and nutritious!) recipe ideas that you have!