A Day on the SNAP Challenge; $5 Billion in Food Cuts Will Hit Friday


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Jennifer Bailey of Community Food Advocates answered a panicked phone call on Monday from a woman with a college degree, a husband, three children and a failed business. The woman worried about feeding her family with just ramen noodles and peanut butter in the pantry.

An hour later Bailey took another call from a single mother working 40 hours a week making minimum wage. Caring for a sick child, this mother said she couldn’t afford both medical bills and food. Yet she makes just over the limit to qualify her for SNAP (food stamp) benefits.

Bailey, SNAP Outreach Coordinator, takes phone calls like these a lot.

“Hunger in Tennessee does not have a face,” she said, noting that all types of people call her in need.

Bailey gathered with a group of employees and concerned citizens on Monday at Sloco for a simple potluck of pasta and bean soup to kick off the SNAP Challenge, where participants try to live on $4.20 per person per day to get a sense of what it would be like to rely on SNAP aid. (In my brief experience, "try" is the key word.)

After busting my budget on the first day of the challenge with just an extra cup of coffee (and not even the expensive kind), I had a mere glimpse of the struggle to make do. But I won’t dare complain after hearing Bailey’s stories. I signed up as an experiment — unlike 47 million Americans (and more than 1 million in Tennessee, or 1 in 5 people) who rely on the benefits to survive.

Linnet Overton, also with Community Food Advocates, said she hopes the challenge, which runs through this Friday, Nov. 1, will help draw attention to the fact that benefits will be cut by $5 billion nationwide on Nov. 1.

The reduction happens as the 2009 economic stimulus package expires. The impact on each family will vary based their existing benefits. For a family of four, it could mean about 24 fewer meals per month.

Overton also hopes the SNAP challenge will motivate participants and those learning about it to contact legislators and work against even deeper cuts with the U.S. farm bill.

Community Food Advocates will gather at 5 p.m. on Friday at Fat Bottom Brewing at 900 Main St. in East Nashville, and all members of the community are invited to join the discussion, whether they are part of the SNAP challenge or not. A dollar from every beer sold will support anti-hunger work in Tennessee.

Here are my Tuesday meals (some of which yielded Wednesday leftovers) on SNAP, with props to Mark Bittman’s The Mini Minimalist for saving my budget with simple and low-cost recipes for soup and pasta. (Bear in mind I spent a lot of time plotting a strategy, shopping and cooking — something that isn't always easy for folks working multiple jobs and scrambling to feed their families.)

The meals:


About 60 cents per serving.


About $1.30 per serving.

With only three main ingredients, this soup packs a surprising punch of flavor and spice. Find Bittman's recipe here.


About $1.40 per serving

Check out Bittman's recipe here.


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