Snacking during the food stamp project

I’m not going to miss this snack.

Tonight I’m joining friends for happy hour and will delight in ending this food stamp diet with a veggie burger and Ace Pear. It’s been a great week — one I won’t soon forget. I’ve learned far more from hearing about your stories and experiences with hunger, than managing my diet.

A few updates, in conclusion:

~ According to Ginny Hildenbrand with the Association of Arizona’s Food Banks (great, great organization), you can purchase any food product you want with food stamps. For those who have witnessed people in the grocery line putting back lower-fat dairy products for their higher-fat counterparts, chances are they were using WIC funding (a different program specifically for women and children.) Food stamps can be used to purchase any food or garden seeds in Arizona. Granted, some rules vary by state.

~ According to Sharon Mahan with the Department of Economic Security in Phoenix, in September 2006 there were:
“106,986 Food Stamp Cases in Maricopa County
261,223 Participants
The average allotment of Food Stamps per household: $222.20.
The average allotment per person is: $97.37.
Total Food Stamps provided to individuals and families in Maricopa County: $25,436,023.00.”

And here is the real kicker: she told me if I made $16,000 per year, I’d make too much money to qualify for food stamps. The limit is actually less. Imagine how many working poor families are struggling with this! Even more, imagine what an increase in the minimum wage could do to help with these numbers. Thankfully, Arizona just passed such a law.

~Was this hard? It was challenging and exhausting, but I’d do it again. In fact, I’m going to do it next week too — of sorts. A representative from a local farmer’s market emailed and wants to show me tomorrow what I could get at her weekly market for my $19.88. Fair enough. I’ll post photos of the loot next week.

~ Also, I’m considering making $20 worth of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to distribute at a day laborer pick-up point I pass each morning on my way to work. I figure everyone can use a snack.

Thanks again for all of your encouragement and conversation this week. If you are interested in preventing hunger in your community, I suggest donating to your local food bank, asking your pastor, priest, rabbi, mullah, what the hunger needs are of your spiritual community, or just stopping in your tracks the next time someone on the street asks you for money for food. Rather than handing them cash, why not figure out a way to actually feed them? You could keep a protein bar in your purse for such occasions, or even McDonald’s gift certificates. Or, you know, you could invite them to a nearby restaurant and sit down. I’d guess they’d be floored by your compassion.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
-Mother Teresa