2020 SNAP Challenge

In 2018 and 2019 the Beyond Hunger organization hosted SNAP challenges.

A person who was well-off was challenged to use the customary SNAP benefit to buy food for one week.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is commonly called by its former name: food stamps.

The most recent challenge allocated participants to use $31.22 per person per week for 7 days total.

That comes out to about $4.46 per person per day.

Some rules apply:

The food cannot be bought at big box retailer like Costco or Sam’s Club.

You can use your own condiments and spices.

In most regards other than these two rules you must make do on $31.22 as one person for 7 days.

I’m not going to be able to meet this standard for a number of reasons:

First I have groceries ordered from FreshDirect which doesn’t accept SNAP benefits for payment.

Second the standard is impossible to live up to when you want to eat healthful food.

As it is for my lunch at my job I spend about $5.00 per day on food from a deli counter at a market.

This food is often a half-pound of beet salad or a Sicilian tomato-and-0nion salad or a container of soup.

The point is that people in America are going hungry.

I order 2 $5 donations–$10 total–with my groceries order so that the NY Common Pantry can give 4 pantry meals each to two people.

I have been “buying” this donation with my groceries since the start of June.

FreshDirect employees package the food and help deliver the boxes to people in need in New York City.

This as a humanitarian response to the food insecurity individuals started to face during the COVID-19 outbreak.

As a modified version of the SNAP challenge I’m going to photograph and document in the blog how I spent $29.99–$30 dollars in effect–on food this week.

The fact is–regardless of anyone’s political persuasion–we cannot continue to rob Americans living in poverty of their right to have enough money to buy food.

That people go hungry is a crime.

Again–giving every American a Universal Basic Income of $1,000 per month–would go a long way in terms of food justice.

Andrew Yang–who dropped out of the Democratic race for president–was my choice because his policy platform included a Universal Basic Income.

Falling in Love with Food

The early fall is my favorite time of year.

It’s where I’m falling in love with the food offered at the Greenmarkets and via the online groceries vendor in New York City.

I’ve taken to ordering an organic CSA box every week. The box is chock full of produce. For only $30 you get enough vegetables to last for three or four days of cooking.

The Hepworth Farms cornucopia features a carrot, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, hot pepper, Lacinato kale, an ear of corn, garlic heads, an onion bulb, shallots, two apples, and scallions. And oh—mint leaves, celery, hot peppers and a green pepper, and butternut squash.

If you ask me $30 isn’t a heck of a lot of money for this assortment. Ordering groceries online and having them delivered right to your front door beats the hassle of going to a food market.

Who wants to dodge shopping carts  and have to wait on line to pay for the  mostly unhealthful food and drink options?

Plus, I can’t reach any of the items I want to get. A market employee has to be called on to bring the organic lettuce down from a high shelf.

I’ve given up on going to a food market for major weekly shopping.

Plus the last time I bought scallops from a market I thought I was going to get food poisoning after cooking and eating them.

If you live in New York City and want the only superb seafood, go to a Greenmarket vendor that sells fish and other catches of the sea during market season.

At other times of the year go to a standalone seafood storefront where all they sell is fish.

In the second blog entry for today I’m going to feature a recipe for Butternut Squash Soup.

Pure joy can be had when you eat healthfully eighty percent of the time and break a sweat at least twice a week.

This is my mantra: eat well to live well.

Though I can’t resist having a honey-lavender macaroon or a scoop of ice cream here and there : )

FreshDirect online grocery shopping here.

The Myth of Meal Plans

bucatinipad thai

FreshDirect Meal Kits Above: Bucatini with Tomato and Burratini – left. Pad Thai – right.

The first trainer I had at a gym left to open up his own boutique gym.

I subscribe to his newsletter. In it he bemoaned the fact that new members of his gym expect him to give them a meal plan. He frowns on this.

Quite simply: if you want to lose weight you have to change what you eat. It might not be as simple as calories in versus calories out either.

The type of food you eat matters. Merely eating less of unhealthful food isn’t going to get you fit for the long-term.

Eating mostly whole foods is the ticket. Eating a mostly plant-based diet.

I align withe Forks over Knives movement. I only eat chicken and turkey not any other kind of meat.

The FreshDirect online delivery service in New York City sells meal kits like the ones above. All the ingredients come in a box and you prepare the recipe on your own.

I have more to say about eating well to be well. I’ll talk about this Eat Well to Be Well philosophy in coming blog entries.

Budgeting for Food

People who hang out shingles as personal finance experts will tell you to allot only certain strict percentages to categories of spending like utilities and food and entertainment.

I say: that’s bull crap. You can absolutely spend more in one category as long as you cut down and reduce or halt spending in the categories that don’t matter to you.

Case in point: though I’m a single person I spend a ton of money on food each month. My contention is: it’s better to exercise and eat right even if that costs a lot–than to wind up in ill health and have to pay a hospital bill.

Now that the Greenmarket season is here I’m going to reiterate like I do every year: in New York City you can use food stamps to buy produce at Greenmarkets.

This is a great thing. Other people might judge a person who uses food stamps to buy expensive food. That’s not right. Poor people deserve to eat healthful food. Poor people deserve to be healthy too.

Wherever you live you might have an online grocer like PeaPod that delivers food. In New York City FreshDirect delivers food and household items.

This beats walking or driving to a food market, wheeling a shopping cart around, and standing in a long line. Plus you’ll use up a lot of gasoline making weekly trips to a food market.

I’m all for curbing or ending our reliance on foreign or other oil supplies.

In the next blog entry I’ll write about a miracle product that you can use to cook food with.