A Food Stamp Budget Just Doesn’t Cut It

By United Way of King County, on March 18, 2014 | In Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Guest post from Amy Carlson, United Way VISTA. 

What changes do you think need to be made to our food system in order for everyone to have access to nutritious, quality food?

Wow, where to start? I was at Trader Joe’s yesterday, and I was blown away by the $56 total of my small grocery list. I know they try to keep things less expensive than other stores, but even so I was thinking “This is almost a third of my food stamp budget for the month!” and I didn’t get enough food to last me for ten days (at least not full meals). Something has to change about the cost of produce, organic, and natural foods. I don’t anticipate this happening anytime soon because of the way our economic system works, but that really needs to change.

Income-wise, I suppose we could try to get the government to up the SNAP benefit amount, but if food prices continue to rise, that will only help so much. Raising minimum wage would be a great start on reducing food insecurity, but other things need to change too, such as the rising cost of rent in the Seattle area.

I think there is also a knowledge and time gap. People who are struggling financially are often working 1-3 jobs, and preparing healthy food (that actually tastes good) takes time! I have experienced this myself as I have gone off processed foods in the last week; I have to spend at least an hour a night making my dinner and lunch and breakfast for the next day! Additionally, low-income families who are struggling with hunger likely haven’t had the leisure of watching Food Network to get tasty ideas of how to prepare veggies and they haven’t been to fancy restaurants where you get served sautéed summer squash and eggplant. They aren’t getting access to a lot of the networks where the middle class often gets recipes and education on nutrition.

How do we change this? I’m not sure. Possibly free recipe booklets and after-work free cooking classes about how to cook a healthy meal on a budget with limited time. What’s clear is that something needs to be done.


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