Day 5: A Veggie Burger and Beer in Sight

December 1st

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


Posted in
Journal, Public Health
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17 Responses

  1. I’ve been very interested in your week! The fact that $16k is too much is completely insane.

    when I was in college and lived in downtown Atlanta, we often had people begging us for money for food. I used to make an extra sandwich or two (along with my own lunch) and hand them to the people asking for money. About half of the time the person was taken aback, but happy and thankful. The other half of the time, they got mad. It didn’t deter me though, because obviously it had helped out the thankful ones.

  2. Wow Kelli! I think that you are just amazing for what you are doing. People are going to think about things like food stamps now because of your experiment. I look forward to seeing what happens at the farmers market. 🙂

    I also think that the workers will be very happy for a snack, but even more happy to be thought of kindly at all. You are one of a kind, and I love it!

    Enjoy your veggie burger!

  3. Kelli you did a GREAT job…Well Done Friend 🙂

  4. I’ll be super interested in seeing what you can get from the farmers market! Looking forward to reading that! Also, great idea on the sandwiches. Let us know how many sandwiches you end up getting our ot $20 and how that turns out!

  5. It has all been very interesting. Thank you for posting about your experiment.

  6. Cheers, sweet Kelli! Enjoy that vegie burger 🙂

  7. Ok, that picture of a so-called snack made me a little nauseated!? I am glad you brought hunger up this week & made us all aware. I have a friend who works with mental health patients & I used to be floored by her stories. But she constantly reminds me that situations she talks about are common…just b/c they are out of sight, out of mind for me does not mean they are a rareity. Same goes with hunger or any other social problem. I will try to be more mindful of this epidemic & try to help out more when our church group serves meals at the Presbyterian Night Shelter & other such opportunities. Enjoy your burger & beer…you deserve it! 🙂

  8. You enjoy that veggie burger and your cider – you’ve worked hard for them… Cheers! Looking forward to teh Farmer’s Market report…

    (and on a side note – I love the ACE Pear too! I’ve not met anyone else who does. I can occasionally find another apple cider grrrrl, but you’re the first kindred pear I’ve encountered!)

    (On another side note – what is that that you are dipping your egg into???)

  9. I’ll be interested to hear how it goes if you distribute sandwiches to the day laborers. I don’t think I’d have the guts to do that because I would be too worried about how they might react to something so out of the ordinary. I guess I figure they might react by being suspicious or rude like Jess mentioned. You know how some people are too proud or embarassed to accept what they consider charity or a “hand out” and react negatively. But, you never know, and regardless, it is a thoughtful and kind gesture which I think will be appreciated.

    I remember when I lived in Chandler there was a pick-up point right by my apartment and I would drive by the houses on my way home from work, and when they left their doors open I remember being shocked by seeing so many people living in such a small space.

    On that note, one of these days I would be very interested to hear your take on the illegal immigration issue and immigrant workers, if you haven’t already tackled that in the past. I’m not able to follow it too well from over here but it is something I think is compelling and often misunderstood, maybe for lack of good information from both sides of the issue.

  10. Back in my McDonalds eating days in SF, my friend Cheryl (yes, that Cheryl that you know) and I used to get the two cheeseburger meal and give our second cheeseburgers to the regular homeless dude that lived in the cover of our office building. The first time we did it he grabbed it, looked suspicious, slowly unwrapped the burger, realized it wasn’t a cruel joke of a wad of trash, and then smiled and told us both to have a really good day.

    As ignorant as I am about the homeless population, this I understood. Likely a lot of people in this position get abused and are understandably skittish.

    I figure when I’m feeling brave, I’ll start up this habit again – just with something other than McDonald’s cheeseburgers. Do you think anyone would want a grilled cheese?

  11. It looks like the egg got hurt and is bleeding. :^|

  12. I think this is really great what you did.I’m also glad you’re sharing this. It will help to open the eyes of others. The only way to truly understand what a person is going through is to be in their shoes. Unfortunately, most of the people in the poverty level also have children and babies to feed. You have one big advantage over poverty income people, education. You knew what to buy to fill your appetite that wasn’t pure junk. Most people will look for something quick and simple which most of the time isn’t nutritious. I think your pb&j sandwich is great. Maybe you can get a friend to donate $20 worth of individual apple juices to match the sandwiches. I would be thristy after a pb&j. 😉

  13. You rock!

    Can’t wait to see how the farmer’s market fares in regards to feeding someone for a week.

    Hope the veggie burger and beer tasted fantastic!

  14. A great experiment – enjoy your veggie burger!

  15. Kelli, I used to be a caseworker for social services in NC (in another life). That experience has served as reminder ever since of both the bounty as well as the misery that humans can enjoy/suffer. As such, I try very hard to be generous when I can and to conserve when I need to do so–the trick is to find a balanced medium. Good for you for not taking your life as a given but poking it here and there for ways to enhance your ability to help yourself as well as others. You are one of the healthiest and most-balanced people I’ve met (albeit it a virutal meeting).

  16. This was a great experiment and very interesting! If street kids stop me and ask me for money, I buy them food instead of handing them money. TALK to the person! There is more to helping people than just putting them in a program or handing them what they need! I loved your quote from Mother Teresa! IT’S TRUE! 🙂

  17. I’ve talked to my husband about this, and he is looking into helping out some families of the kids he teaches. He knows that there are a few players on his basketball team who are very poor, who could use the help.