Food Stamp eligibility rests on three crucial facts: family size, amount of monthly income, and a recorded 20 hours minimum of employment. With the current decline of the economy and the unemployment rate soaring across the country, the reality of seeking extra help through food stamps every month has become increasingly more common. College students, single parents and families are all in this struggle together. Roughly, one in every six Americans depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to provide for them. Living off a food stamp budget, though, while still maintaining healthy eating habits, can be a big challenge.
However, there are resources available that greatly help. One option, even though it is an old concept, is clipping coupons. With the technology known today through Apple and Microsoft products, this has never been easier. Apps that clip coupons are now at the touch of a finger. Calendars and organizers are accessible too. Safeway, in particular, has an app for their “Just for U” program, allowing users to catalog the latest deals and discounts, and then scan them in when the cashier checks them at the register.
The monthly amount that the Basic Food program provides through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is often lower than what is necessary to purchase all the basic essentials the body needs. Despite that the purpose of the federally funded nutrition program is meant to “help low income people make ends meet by providing monthly benefits to buy food.” In fact, much of what can be purchased has restrictions, and are typically processed foods high in carbs.
That is why budgeting to support that healthy sense of eating is so important. One inspired individual, Leanne Brown, when earning her Masters Degree in food studies at New York University, discovered a way to help out those on living on the SNAP debit card. In her cookbook, Good and Cheap, she includes many recipes that cook very flavorful and nourishing meals. As she too was living off food stamps, she explains how all her recipes could be done a budget of just $4 a day, the amount roughly allotted from the SNAP’s total monthly allowance. Flexibility and a willingness to change personal lifestyles while on food stamps is a strong encouragement in her secret behind her new-found success.
Her book is free and available to download online, both in PDF format and through Kick Starter, where readers can get a printed version by backing up her project. Those who have tried her recipes have been astounded at how their views on using vegetables and other fresh products have changed the way they look at and shop for food. Leanne Brown clearly illustrates that there are possible ways to budget and eat healthy when living off the Basic Food program.
Additional resources can be found online. The USDA has a website dedicated entirely to handouts that offer tips on how to budget, shop, and eat right while surviving on the federally funded food stamp program. Articles written by fellow food stamp members can be found there as well. Living off a budget, especially with food stamps, is hard, but there are definitely ways to find success and eat healthy.
By Rachel Roddy