Food Stamp Project: Day 3

November 29th

Spaghetti squash -- it's what's for dinner

Last night’s dinner: spaghetti squash & sauce.

It’s only day 3 and I’ve spent too much money. I’m slightly hungry and slightly light-headed. So, this is going swimmingly. I think the biggest problem with my planning (other than the aforementioned lack of budgeted caffeine) was I didn’t account for the fact I live a very active lifestyle and I’m only eating 1,000 calories a day.
Really. I entered my little menu into Sparkpeople and it came in at a cool 914 calories. Yikes. Considering yesterday I swam 45 minutes before work and then played ultimate frisbee for 2 hours after work, I’m a bit exhausted today. Truly the only reason this week is manageable and I’m not pulling my hair out (and then possibly looking at it as a snack) is that this is only lasting 5 days. I cannot imagine how people do this every single day, with children, riding a bus to work, working for minimum wage, dealing with unsafe housing, etc. Amanda made a good point that it is essentially a luxurious attitude to say I won’t shop at Wal-Mart. In truth, if I was in a bind financially and had kids, I’d shop wherever I could make my buck stretch the most.

pointed out another great aspect of hunger. Imagine the stress this causes in any home. I’ve heard this public health story, which very may be an urban legend, that goes something like this. In Phoenix, there is an elementary school in a particularly bad part of town. Parents must come in the school office to check their kids in and return in the afternoon to sign them out. It was decided by school staff that while students weren’t showing signs of starvation, they obviously weren’t getting enough to eat at home. They would come to school very early on Mondays to eat the school breakfast — in all likelihood because they weren’t getting enough to eat during the weekend. The school nurse began making peanut butter sandwiches and handing one to each parent who came in to the school to check his/her child out for the day. Within a year, the neighborhood had dramatically lower rates of domestic violence. When they later interviewed parents about what had changed in their households, many of the moms said they fed the kids the sandwich, or they ate part of it, or they gave it to their husbands. The husband, who was less cranky after getting something to eat, was less likely to hit his wife. The wife, who was less cranky, was less likely to hit the kid. The kid, who now had a snack, was better behaved.
All from a peanut butter sandwich.


Posted in
Journal, Public Health
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25 Responses

  1. I’ve been reading your experiment since day one and haven’t posted, but I have to comment. I’ve never been a real activist (however my hubby & I do boycott Walmart and have for some time) or really an informed person about the world around me… I go to work, go home and worry about my petty life – your blog (which I’ve been reading for sometime now) has really opened my eyes to some things. Thank you and please keep it up! You are an inspiration; not that I’m out running or swimming or doing anything healthy yet, but maybe tomorrow 🙂 Seriously, thanks!

    Its funny though, when I was little and my mother and I were on foodstamps I thought we ate like Kings… funny what perspective will do.

  2. Gosh that story makes me want to sell all that I have and feed the hungry. How can I do more? I keep asking myself this. And how I COMPLAIN! I do. I complain about not wanting to eat what’s in the stocked fridge and freezer and oh, honey can we just order in??? ARG. I am so mad at myself over how selfish I am. Thank you for opening my eyes to even more of what I need to change in me.

  3. Oh and to think….today I made myself a turkey and cheese sandwich (all organic of course) with romaine and sprouts and cucumbers on a ciabatta roll…I had a fresh cold tangerine and a small piece of Trader Joe’s peppermint bark as a treat. To think that is more than some get in DAYS. And I ate that for lunch! GAWD! I am so blessed Kelli. SO blessed.

  4. You know, this story brings one to mind from junior high (a place I do not wax nostalgic about often-ew.)

    I remember my Health teacher lecturing us on eating enough when she started hearing about girls going on crash diets. She told us that she used to have a student who came to class ever afternoon and was disruptive and never paid attention. She found out that he wasn’t eating lunch because he didn’t have any money for it. So, one day she pulled him aside a little bit before class and took him into the cafeteria and let him pick out whatever he wanted. And after a french bread pizza and carton of milk, he came to class, behaved himself and was able to focus. She said this made a big difference and made arrangements with the cafeteria staff for him to get lunch on a daily basis.

    I’m not sure if he turned out to be an A student after that, but it was a big enough turn around for her to share with us as a case study for eating habits.

  5. This is really an interesting project. I think the real hunger in the country goes unnoticed because so many people associate obesity and food stamp recipients, who likely are forced to make unhealthy choices because the cheap food is that which is also poor in nutritional quality. I thought of your project tonight when my grocery bill rang up to over $60. The last time I bought a $6 can of espresso, I was proud of being economical, choosing to make it at home rather than spending over $4 for a cup at Starbucks. Tonight I realized just what a luxury that can is.

    As far as the school food programs go, it’s a tough situation. My mom runs the cafeteria system in our hometown and she gets so frustrated with the regulations and restrictions on the types of aid she can give. I wouldn’t be surprised if the peanut butter sandwich give-away was actually against the rules for how schools can distribute food. The administrators at her school won’t allow students to trade food during lunch because it causes too much talking and arguing so she’ll watch kids throw away untouched apples and sandwiches when a hungry child is sitting right there, in dire need of something extra to tuck into a backpack to take home.

  6. I used to volunteer at the St. Mary’s Food Bank when in Phx. That peanut butter story was theirs, so I think it is true. It is absolutely heart breaking to think about, but wonderful at the same time, that a simple snack can save the day for a child and family! They actually told the story that they would send home more if needed, and that Domestic Violence went down like 80% in that area! We are very fortunate. I have been buying formula for R, and can’t imagine what I would do without $$, it is 25 bucks a pop, and that doesn’t last a week. Heck, a four month old in my house eats about 50 dollars in food a week!

  7. Amazing HOW a fed tummy will help a disposition!

  8. Blog surfed myself on to your food stamp experiment and am having a very interesting time reading about it. I have a close friend who somehow survives on less than half the food budget I do, and always has full children and a full fruit bowl. I still don’t know how she does it, but one thing for sure, she’s a miracle worker. A miracle worker without a lazy bone in her body.

    I’ve been very interested in the nutrition/psychological well being connection – I am sure there is an enormous link there that hasn’t been well understood.

    Mostly, thanks for such a thought-provoking series of posts.

  9. very interesting story with the pb sandwich. gives me something to think about.

    unfortunately we know a family who has struggled financially for years. they eat a lot of scrambled eggs for dinner. i guess it’s a reasonably cheap dinner, but i would get real sick of that quick!!

  10. Ok, next time post a sob warning before a heart warming (and wrenching) story like that! I just saw on our local news yesterday that some schools now send food packs home with kids on Fridays. They knew kids weren’t getting good meals at home on the weekends, so they started getting donations from corporations, etc. to provide these meals. I know all the meals were packaged in Radio Shack bags, so they are a major contributor. I take for granted every single day that I have the means to eat good food at any point in the day that I like. That is truly a blessing that so many people are not fortunate enough to have. Thanks for opening my eyes.

  11. I read that newspaper story too.

  12. Kelli, I mentioned to you about my little project that never made itoff the ground………one of the things that inspired my project was seeing people in front of me spending more for junk food than they would have spent for nutricious food…..

    I have always been an admirer of the Victory Garden projects back during the two World Wars and how the goverment and even some corporations put out booklets on instructions of how to grow food gardens and how to can the food grown.

    My project would have had the government publish booklets on how to spend the food stamp allowances wisely and how to make it stretch, and include recipes.

  13. I can believe the peanut butter story. It can turn ugly around here fast when anyone is the least bit “hungry.”
    I’ve found that handing a kid a chunk of cheese also helps them focus to do their schoolwork at times. My husband as well as my boys are always concerned about when the next meal is coming along – and none of them has ever known true hunger. I can’t imagine what it’s like in families that do.

  14. One of the schools here had a breakfast program and it made a big difference.

    I think that it would be really hard to make a food stamp budget work and still be healthy. Just think of all the ramen noodles you could buy, but fruits and veg are so much more money.

  15. It’s very sad we think for granted a lot of things in our lives, like food on the table three times a day. And how easily we throw away the leftovers, without thinking that just our leftovers would keep someone else alive or in better health. I can’t promise to spend less money in food, but I do surely promise to better manage my food supply and be careful not to waste any ot it anymore. Thank you Kelli.

  16. What startles me is the cost of fresh food over in the US! I’m visiting the organic store later today and I’ll take a photo for my blog of the amount of fruit and vegetables I get for the 11 euros I pay per week.

  17. In Ukraine street kids start inhaling glue simply because it curbs their appetite….then you have a society of new drug addicts……So yes, people not getting enough to eat causes more problems in a society……

  18. So many things to think about. Thank you for raising my awareness to this problem.

  19. I remember well the days of living off Ramen noodles and the charity of friends that worked at fast food joints. Being hungry is horrible. Working at Starbucks and now Borders I am floored by how much food they throw away daily, and that an employee can get FIRED for taking the stuff! It’s insane. 🙁

  20. wow. the power of peanut butter. i’m glad this is only 5 days! how can you stand it, ms. activity?

  21. I am being a poo-head because I’m sick and cranky and haven’t slept more than 3 hrs a night for 2 weeks, but wouldn’t a .60 lb box of pasta be more economical than a $4 spaghetti squash?

    Pasta isn’t unhealthy! And it would bring up your caloric intake a bit more.

  22. Another quite thought provoking post. Again, I thank you…

  23. You amaze me and obviously have touched many people with your story. Keep it up girl.

  24. That is truly amazing but makes so much sense. I mean, obviously not to the point of being violent but Chris and I both get snarky and cranky when we are hungry! Last night, we went out to eat (Chris had a particularly bad day at work and needed to talk about it) but couldn’t agree on where the restaurant was and we ended up bickering about it in the car!! Hunger truly does affect your mood!

  25. wow! talk about a savvy shopper. my mom is a religious coupon clipper & user. she is always so proud to tell us the amt she saved that week by using coupons! thankfully she saves them each week for me, too! lots of grocery stores will double & even triple certain amts.