Forty Days of SNAP

Our family's Lenten food stamp challenge

87 cents

by Ivan Herman

That’s how much we had left on our SNAP budget at the end of the month.  87 cents.  Not much room for error, and not much of a cushion for frills and extras.

On Thursday we had run out of milk and fruit.  We had $9.27 left in our budget.

I took my son to the grocery store in the afternoon.
$3.49 for milk
$1.95 for six bananas
$1.99 for a whole, fresh pineapple (score!)

I tallied it up in my head: about $7.50, and figured I could buy only two Fuji apples on sale at $1.49 per pound (it came out to $.97).  I asked Robin to pick the two apples.  He plunked two into the bag, then grabbed for a third.
“Sorry, little dude, but we don’t have the money to buy a third apple.”
“But I like apples.”
“Yeah, me too.”  <<sigh>>

$8.40 for milk and fruit.
$530 for 4 people over 40 days.
$1.10 per person, per meal.
Only $.87 left over.

We ate frugally, but were still able to eat a balanced diet.
How easy it would be to miss the target!

On a day when we celebrated the institution of our Lord’s Supper, the feast at my own table looked a bit more meager.  At the Maundy Thursday service, as the bread was broken, I hungered for it, both physically and spiritually.  The fridge at home had only a half-loaf of homemade sourdough, and some leftover simple drop biscuits.  But the bread, juice, and wine at the Lord’s Table held the promise of abundance.

Now Easter is upon us, and abundance is at hand.  May our “Alleluias” in grateful praise bring glory to God as well as food for those who still hunger, for “Alleluias” are not just sung and spoken in devotion and worship, but also acted out in compassion and justice.

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6 thoughts on “87 cents

  1. Congrats on finishing the CalFresh/SNAP Challenge! I’ve enjoyed reading along, especially since some of us here in the Imperial Valley have been doing the CalFresh Challenge for Lent (and blogging about it) too!

  2. Laura King on said:

    So what is for dinner tonight? That was a wonderful exercise. I hope you moved some people to help the cause.

  3. I’m glad you survived the SNAP Challenge. My wife and I did not. We realized very quickly that it is virtually impossible to eat healthily on a SNAP budget. There were several unexpected events that required us to use our food budget and both of us work full time (plus) and struggle with the time it takes to cook meals on a daily basis. We realized that cooking every meal is the only way to make SNAP work. I also work with a lot of single parent families who rely on SNAP and they cannot do it either. Many of them do not have the time or skills to cook on a daily basis. Our experience made it every evident to us that SNAP is insufficient to feed families. Our experience also led us to a commitment to make sure that SNAP benefits are NOT cut (as proposed by the US House and Senate). In the kingdom of God, there is plenty of loaves and fishes (with leftovers!) Amen.

    • Absolutely, Pastor Bruce. Time and education are essential to living on a SNAP-limited budget. Many people have neither available to them. What’s more, the cheapest, quickest meals are often full of calories and empty of nutrition.

  4. Kabrina on said:

    I realize this is a few months late. I commend you on following through on this challenge. My situation has been much the same. My husband makes $11 an hour and I watch 3 kids for a friend in need for only $100 a week. $100 a week isnt really enough to help considering out of that money I pay for those kids meals. Believe it or not even though this has been our situation for quite some time. We have been turned down for SNAP benefits. The last time we were eligeable was when my husband was down to only 32 hours a week at work. With that and 2 kids we only recieved $215 a month. However, because my kids are 1 and 3 we also qualified for WIC which was a big help to us. It’s $65 worth of healthy food every month. So basically my family of 4 lived off of $280 a month. To me having that much today to spend on food would be a blessing. As it is our food budget since May of this year has been a wopping $150 a month. And I do not get to send kids off to daycare or school to have any meals supplemented somewhere else. If it were just for my family it would be 41 cents a meal. but I also feed the 3 kids that I watch. 2 meals a day for 1 child and 1 meal a day for the other 2 kids 5 days out of the week.
    When you have to do it you learn to save money where ever you can. And no its not really that healthy but it’s enough to fill us up and its better than fast food. There are no meals where the main part of the meal is meat. It’s just not possible. Meat is just something thrown in to the mix. We will cook a box of whole grain pasta or rice and put in half a lb of hamburger meat with some seasoning and half of bag of frozen vegetable medley. Or instead of half a lb of hamburger meat its one shredded chicken breast. For breakfast we almost always have pancakes. Since a box of pancakes cost less than $2 and will make roughly 40 small pancakes a box will last us a week. Lunches are the rare dinner leftover or a peanut butter sandwich or ramen noodles.
    But I can live with all this because I know it is only for a season.

    • Thank you so much for reading, Kabrina, and for sharing this detailed, thoughtful response from your own experience. Wow, $150/month including lunches and extra kids. I’m impressed and saddened at the same time. I pray that these conditions are indeed “only for a season.”

      I was really proud Sunday because our church drama team did a skit about giving to the church’s food closet. Instead of focusing on how much good the food closet does in the community, they focused on the recent cuts in SNAP benefits and gave some stats that many church members may not have known about.

      Thanks again.

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