Could You Live on $5 of Food a Day?

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Co-sponsored by the Coalition Against Hunger & Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
Thank you to all of the elected officials, journalists and more than 130 concerned citizens who took part in the Greater Philadelphia Food Stamp Challenge from April 23-29, 2012. 
Want to do more to fight hunger in our community?
Sign up for advocacy alerts: The Coalition Against Hunger will keep you update to date on how you can take action on hunger issues.
Learn about the 2012 Farm Bill: Get the facts on this federal legislation, which authorizes SNAP and other programs that keep millions of Americans from going hungry every day.
Hear real stories: Meet the families and individuals in the Philadelphia region who rely on SNAP to put food on the table.

Thank you to all of the elected officials, journalists and more than 130 concerned citizens who took part in the Greater Philadelphia Food Stamp Challenge from April 23-29, 2012. 

Want to do more to fight hunger in our community?

  • Sign up for advocacy alerts: The Coalition Against Hunger will keep you update to date on how you can take action on hunger issues.
  • Learn about the 2012 Farm Bill: Get the facts on this federal legislation, which authorizes SNAP and other programs that keep millions of Americans from going hungry every day.
  • Hear real stories: Meet the families and individuals in the Philadelphia region who rely on SNAP to put food on the table.

Schaunel Steinnagel

I participated in the July 2006 Coalition Against Hunger Food Stamp Challenge, as well, and this time was harder and more intense! In 2006, in eating simply, my family was able to complete the challenge successfully, I feel, without question. 

But I have a daughter, who, then still in pre-school, has in my mind been forever immortalized, in the Coalition’s report of the 2006 Challenge, as the pre-schooler whose teacher had to give her more food at lunch, when she was still hungry. A reason that we were able to otherwise “succeed” in the Food Stamp Challenge in 2006 was that we also had a newborn, maybe three weeks old, nursing exclusively, so his nourishment was free, but we were able to count an entire extra person in our household, so we were able to spend with a food stamp/dollar amount for a family of four for three eaters. At least one person told me at the time, wait until they are teenagers!

Now I have three children, total, ages 10, 5, and 2. At all limited in what they could eat during this year’s Food Stamp Challenge, they were hungry! The big sister definitely enjoyed enforcing the rules, telling her brothers what they could and could not eat, because “we’re on food stamps.” 

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Joyia Yorgey

The Greater Philadelphia Food Stamp Challenge concluded (for us) last Thursday, ending a week of eating on the budget of a SNAP recipient household. We started the week with $64.40 in an envelope and a mostly emptied refrigerator. Three days into the week, we only had $5.50 in the envelope but plenty of leftovers and pantry items remaining.

On the final day of the challenge, we finished the last of our tea, oats, bread, rice, eggs, and fruit. We used the last of our food budget to purchase a box of brownie mix ($1.50) and a tub of strawberry ice cream ($2.99), ending the week with $1.01 left over. I was very excited that we could afford to purchase dessert; but it also felt so extravagant.

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The one permanent takeaway I’ll have is a profound sense of gratitude. … Grateful that for me, the challenge was just an experiment.

Reporter Tracy Davidson of NBC10 covers the Food Stamp Challenge closing event. See her daily coverage of the Challenge week.

Rabbi Stacy Eskovitz Rigler

What are my thoughts only one day past the food stamp challenge?  I am overwhelmed by the choices I am privileged to have. I was at a work lunch today and I kept going over to the cookie tray. Usually I limit my sweets consumption to try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But I couldn’t help myself.  

I was conscious of my inability to eat sweets, to consume food that I had not planned for or pre-purchased, or just to eat an unlimited volume of something. It made me realize how lucky I am not only for the food, and the choices I am able to make, but for the sheer privilege of choice. 

Thank you to the organizers of this Food Stamp Challenge. It has enriched my life, my families life, and the lives of my congregation.

Joi Tolliver

I’m at that awful time of day, after breakfast and before lunch and I am hungry. Last night my girlfriend (who is also taking the challenge) and I were talking about our experience and how difficult it is to actually purchase $35.00 worth of food and stick to eating just the food purchased. It can be done but it is difficult. 

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Sharon W.

Here’s an issue that, I’m ashamed to admit, didn’t occur to me until I was grocery shopping this morning. Poverty doesn’t just mean food stamps; it also tends to mean no car, or an unreliable car, as well as living where there are few or no supermarkets. (All the mom-and-pop corner grocers in my town went out of business decades ago, but Camden is still full of corner stores. And the economics of running a corner grocery mean higher prices and smaller selections.)

I was able to get through the week under the $35 ceiling because I could drive to Wegman’s—the cheapest supermarket near my home—and use the car to lug back whatever I bought (instead of needing to carry it myself). If I were really living like a poor person, I don’t think I could have finished successfully after all.

Eileen S. Sklaroff, President Female Hebrew Benevolent Society

I am not a cheater nor am I a quitter so I knew with great certainty that I would stick to the rules of The Challenge and see it through to the bitter end. There were days when I was hungry and reached instinctively for a bunch of grapes or a rice cake to tide me over. But those snacks were in my mind, not within my budget, so I waited until the next meal.

I spent $60.88 of my $64.40 allowance. It seemed fair to hold back the remainder because Mark could not participate with me after Friday lunch because he had a bris in New York on Shabbat. (I am ashamed to say that my first thought was “more food for me!”).

The only food that remains is a head of Romaine, a few carrots, a few potatoes, half a cuke, a can of tomato sauce and two boxes of pasta, which we didn’t eat because we didn’t like the taste, and some rice. Not an inspiring repertoire with which to begin a new week, but I won’t have to do that because come tomorrow morning I will be at the closing event for the FSC where a light breakfast will be served. And I can eat it!

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Joi Toliiver

I am a week behind, but I still wanted to take the challenge. I must admit it’s starting out kind of hard for me but I won’t quit. I spent $34.23 on groceries, and I planned out all of meals.

I ate my breakfast but now I’m hungry. Normally I would have had some fruit or some potato chips to hold me over until my next meal but that wasn’t in the budget and I’ll have to wait until my next meal to satisfy my hunger.

I also realized that you have eat leftovers in order to survive off of the $35.00.  What I made for dinner yesterday (Sunday) I will have for lunch on Monday.  One day down 6 more to go and I’ll keep you posted.