Tuesday, August 31, 2010

According to an article that appeared in the 8/30/2010 edition of USA Today, more than 40 million people get food stamps across the U.S. This is a 50% increase over the past 3 years, the highest enrollment in the history of the program.

In the same article, it is stated that 1 in 6 Americans is now in receipt of at least one form of government assistance.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Is this America?

Never in my life did I think that I would read a story where the following was said by a 14 year old girl. This is taken from an interview done by Pam Fessler, which aired on National Public Radio on July 19,2010.

Daughter Beanna, who is 14, has learned over the years how to cook and says she doesn't worry too much about food. “When I was younger, I kind of did,” she says. “Now, I necessarily don't. My mom has more perfected the technique of making it stretch. I myself can do just about as well as her.” And, she says, if things get tight, she can always go to the soup kitchen down the street for a meal.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A week in the life of fish and spaghetti - Bekka

Baby Broccoli Florets 2.29

Bag of Mixed Veggies 1.69

Coke Zero 1 Liter 1.33

Coke Zero 1 Liter 1.34 (Not kidding)

Bag of Pretzel Sticks 2.19

Box of Wheat Spaghetti 1.29

Bag of 4 Tilapia Loins Buy 1 get 1 free 7.98

Bag of Tilapia Loins 0.00


Buy 1 get 1 free bags of fish. Hot darn!

My strategy for the week was to eat the same things over and over again and buying items which would be mix-match-able like clothing.

At first I couldn’t find my Giant Eagle card. The cashier said I could just come back and get it refunded off the receipt later, but I explained I had to keep it under $21.00 and briefly explained the food stamp challenge. She looked at me like I was crazy. Eventually, I guessed the right phone number for my Giant Eagle card (Mack Stadium Scholarship Dorm, 2001).

The Food

Wheat spaghetti exists! It looks like incense.

I’m actually not a fan of pretzel sticks, but I knew I could snack on them forever and they’d make me feel full. I also bought wheat spaghetti for the first time ever. I figured the wheat would keep me fuller longer. It was actually cheaper, and probably healthier in the long run--like white rice versus brown rice.

But it does not burn like incense.


A salt addict, I cook my fish the exact same way every time. I probably could have put it out prettier on a plate. Poppy was allowed no fish as she refused to participate.

Fish with soy sauce and garlic salt, baked in tin foil.

When not having fish, I fix the spaghetti like I saw on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. I put in a bit of oil and butter, then added Italian spice and garlic salt. To spice it up, I microwaved broccoli, cut it up in a bowl, then mixed in the noodles.

Tadaaaa, Broccoli spaghetti!

Interestingly, as the week wore on I found myself adding more salt, oil, and butter to make up for the monotony in food choices.

Hmm, is fish spaghetti next on the menu?

Oh you bet it was.

And yet again...

I'm also almost out of diet coke, but couldn't bring myself to take pictures of the near-empty bottles. If you leave soda unguarded on your desk, I will not be held responsible. You have been warned.


I hate pretzels.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another Participant Chimes In

My wife, Sara, and I started our food stamp challenge after most of the other folks at OASHF, we started on Sunday. Very close friends of ours who are tough to get a hold of had dinner scheduled with us for Saturday night (it had been on the calendar for months!) Sara and I started to talk about the Foodstamp Challenge and how it was going to be hard to give up our leftovers and I noticed our friend Layne doing some mental calculations. Then she looked up and said, "Three dollars a day, that's generous!" Turns out that while she was recently pregant her, Rob, and the baby only had $80 per month of food assistance after Rob's position was eliminated while he was in school (students have to work at least 20 hours per week to be eligible for assistance.) They only had student loan overage checks, food assistance, and Medicaid to live on for awhile. In Rob's words, "Yeah, it was real fun there for a minute." This conversation was really a great way for Sara and I to gather inspiration and find meaning in what we were about to do.

On Sunday we went shopping and managed to come in $6 under our allotted forty two. We were feeling like pretty savvy shoppers until we got home ad looked at what we had purchased. It quickly became apparent that we were going to have to be creative with our meal choices. While we won't be eating as many fresh fruits and vegetables as normal, I think we are going to make it by. This is going to be quite an experience for the two of us... But, maybe that is just the point, for us it is an experience, for millions of Americans that $21/person/week is all that is there week after week after week...

Zach Reat

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We are getting traction ... Keep up the great work!

The following is a story from Gongwer News:

Volume #79, Report #159--Monday, August 16, 2010
Ohio could lose about $373 million in annual food stamp benefits and thousands of related jobs unless Congress reverses a cut in the program that offset some of the cost of legislation boosting Medicaid and teacher salaries, a recent analysis shows.
The Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks calculated the potential local impact the federal move would have on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, when the reduction takes effect in 2014.
"In the deepest recession of our lifetime, this takes food off the tables of children," OASHF Executive Director Ms. Hamler-Fugitt said. "Ohio now ranks third highest in the nation for childhood hunger for children under the age of 5."
The recent passage of legislation to extend an enhanced level of federal matching funds for Medicaid (eFMAP) and to support teacher jobs brought with it a $11.9 billion cut to planned food stamp increases. The federal stimulus program included a 13.6% scheduled increase in funding to SNAP benefits, but with Congress' passage of the eFMAP measure last week, that money was reallocated to cover some of the $26 billion cost of the bill.
Under the Medicaid measure, Ohio is projected to receive more than $500 million for the entitlement and $361 million to maintain or rehire 5,500 educators, according to the U.S. Department of Education. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, August 6, 2010)
OASHF used May statistics to calculate the impact the food stamp cut might have on Ohio. The state's 228,467 public and 530,976 non-public assistance groups issued $228.8 million in SNAP benefits that month.
Based on the 13.6% cut, Ohio would lose $31,123,419 per month for the program, bringing the annual total to $373,481,032, Ms. Hamler-Fugitt said.
Given that every $60,976 in assistance supports one job, Ms. Hamler-Fugitt said Ohio could lose 6,125 positions resulting in a potential economic stimulus drop of $687 million.
The average monthly issuance of food stamps for 1,619,992 Ohioans is $141. The increase would have meant an additional $19 per month per person, Ms. Hamler-Fugitt said.
"Food stamp case loads are at rates we've never seen before," she said. "These are the folks who are literally the poorest of the poor."
On top of the eFMAP measure, the U.S. Senate earlier this month approved a reauthorization of the child nutrition program, which would further cut SNAP benefits. Ms. Hamler-Fugitt said OASHF is backing a U.S. House version of the bill that does not include such funding slashes.
If the Senate version were enacted, reductions in food stamp support would start in 2013, she said.

From the Desk of Jessica

This post is from the Executive Assistant at OASHF - who, along with other staff members, is participating in the SNAP challenge. Here are her thoughts from yesterday.

Gratefulness can start simple and small. This morning I am really grateful for the cool breeze after the staggeringly hot, humid weather we have been having. I’m grateful for oatmeal, peanut butter and chocolate chips all mixed together into a chocolaty treat. Once I think of one or two small things that I’m grateful for, the bigger stuff seems to follow…my family and friends, my health, my home, hope…and food. Food is so elemental and basic to us that I don’t think any of the important aspects of life can be accomplished without access to good, fresh and nutritious food.

I took a simply living class a year ago and one of the folks said something that still causes me to reflect on the statement…”Good food should be expensive”. I know what she meant, that organically-grown food, local whenever possible, costs more than the mass-produced and often processed items available at the large grocery chains for a lower price. But this can’t be the complete statement. Everyone needs to be able to have good food that is affordable. For many, this happens through supplementing staples with food from critically needed community gardens and food pantries, or by just growing a few vegetable plants in the back yard. Others aren’t so fortunate. It is these people that we are standing with this week in the OASHF SNAP challenge.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thoughts around the office

This was written yesterday, the 16th of August, the third day of the OASHF SNAP Challenge:

Today marks day three of the SNAP Challenge. Like most of the staff, I am missing my normal diet. Conversations around the office include things like “I know I have enough food to get me through the week, but I cannot begin to say how much I do not want to eat it”. Or “cabbage used to be my favorite vegetable – now it is the devil”.
Our social lives have also been disrupted. For one person, the weekend usually meant a dinner out – this Friday was spent in. Last weekend, before the challenge, I spent over $21 on pizza, chips, and drinks for a meal with family members who came to town for a visit. At the time, I did not think about how that one meal cost more than one person gets to eat for an entire week. I am thinking about it now.
We all seem to have the same thought in the back of our minds: FOOD. Not so much because we are hungry but because we know it is limited. One coworker admitted that they think about food more than normal just because they are aware that there is not much left.
I feel like I am in one of those frozen dinner ads where people are comparing the crazy unhealthy things they had for dinner the night before. One coworker had a meal entirely of peanuts, another coworker described their overripe banana situation, and still another had the same pasta for dinner for three nights in a row.
I have been skipping breakfast all together and at first I tried to skip lunch as well – but I failed. I now halve the amount of my normal lunch instead. This has allowed me to save money for dinners – which get to include chicken and a few fresh veggies. I also imagine what even a small reduction in my allowance of food dollars would mean: no breakfast and no lunch weather I could handle it or not.
I feel like I am in some sort of sick diet commercial– where I get nothing for breakfast, almost nothing for lunch, and slightly more than nothing for dinner. I think about how many people pay for the experience of having this diet (only theirs might come with supplement shakes and fortified candy bars) – and then wonder why it has failed them.
Most of all, I am feeling weak, not just physically, but in strength of character. Many Ohioans struggle with food security everyday and do so with much more grace and much less complaining than I do.