Follow our ‘SNAP Challenge’ guest blog series this week by Jasmine Zandi (pictured left) and Claire Thompson (right)
Hi, we’re Claire Thompson and Jasmine Zandi. This summer, we are the No Kid Hungry Youth Ambassadors at the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.
The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance was formed 12 years ago by Arkansas food banks and the D.W. Reynolds Foundation to help provide food for the hungry in the state. Today, the Alliance works with organizations across the state to keep food on the tables of our fellow Arkansans who need it most, and help shape policy decisions that impact hunger in our state. The Alliance is also the lead partner for the No Kid Hungry campaign in Arkansas that is increasing access to federal nutrition programs within our state.
This week, we will be participating in a SNAP Challenge. SNAP—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps)— helps to bridge the gap when people can’t afford enough food to support their families. The Challenge will be feeding ourselves on $4 per day, the same average daily benefit amount on which millions of low income Americans and 1 in 7 Arkansans rely.
This challenge is not to see if we can eat healthy on four dollars a day, and this isn’t a competition or feel-good “look what we did” Facebook post. We are doing this to understand the hard choices low-income Arkansans have to make every day.
Here’s what we’ve done so far:
Not much went into this step. We watched a few YouTube at home on-a-budget cooking tutorials, flipped through some recipes, browsed Google, and figured we got this!
This is when we realized we so did not have this. Looks like we were winging it. After four years of friendship, we got in our first fight over an 88 cent loaf of bread and a bag of frozen broccoli. Don’t worry, in the end we settled on a bag of mixed frozen stir fry veggies (for the variety, of course) and decided to split the loaf of bread. We watched longingly as moms with lists strolled past with carts full of fresh strawberries, peaches, pizza rolls, and meat. We kept reminding each other to stay focused and skip the snacks, candies, and frozen meals isles. We weighed fruit over and over, realizing there was no way we were getting four apples for under a pound, and even then, the pound was really pushing it, but girls can dream. Confused, we went back to Youtube only to realize we are hopeless and don’t know how to cook anything. So, our planning efforts really were pointless.
- The Checkout
We rolled our cart of colorless, nameless (unless Great Value is a name brand) food to the checkout and started piling things on the counter. This was the moment of truth. Had we even figured in tax? No. We held our breath and said a silent prayer hoping we were on budget as the cashier rang up our items. There’s no way we would have given up that peanut butter. Alas, the moment of truth. Our total presented itself on the screen, and we had seven cents to spare. Our poor cashier had no idea why we were so excited, but wished us the best of times with our canned tomatoes and seven cents.
We rolled our $39.93 worth of groceries out to our cars―it was close to midnight— in a Walmart parking lot to separate the things we bought together. Combining our money really helped us out with things we knew we wouldn’t eat all of and allowed us to get more variety. The money we saved on a bag of apples allowed us to each buy bananas.
- Day One
Jasmine is already tired of oatmeal, and Claire has realized that one of her younger brothers has already stolen one of her bananas, but that’s okay; she remembered she doesn’t like the texture anyways. So far, we’re doing okay. The only major setback is the chocolate craving.
Needless to say, we are off to a great start. We’ve learned that buying in bulk really does help. Buying dried beans gives you more bang for your buck. Your eyes are deceiving, so read how much is in a package before buying, because something that looks bigger may actually hold 4 oz less. Budgeting takes time management and preparation—do yourself a favor and learn to make them a part of your life.
Check back with us in a couple of days to gauge where we land on the hangry scale.