imagine you, on food stamps (8)


Now let it be noted from the start that I fully realize the way I’m going about this “food stamp project” in January is a bit unfair. How so? It is unfair in at least three ways.

First, many who qualify for food stamps are often quite limited in terms of time. No small number of them work two jobs, and in some cases, even three. If they have children living at home, their time once they arrive home is most certainly at a premium. Any and all time spent on food preparation means it’s time that can’t be spent doing something else (i.e. – doing laundry, helping with homework, maintaining a vehicle, etc.). Consequently, for quite a large percentage of folks who receive SNAP benefits, the choices made in terms of what food to acquire boils down primarily to this single question: “What food can I buy that can be prepared in the least possible amount of time with the least amount of attention required in doing so?

Second, transportation for many who receive SNAP benefits is a complicated affair. Many do not have a car and so, they must walk or ride a bicycle wherever they go. On occasion they might be able to hitch a ride with a friend who has some wheels, in which case they are dependent all the more on the choices of others. If they do have a vehicle, due to their limited funds they can’t drive around just anywhere looking for the best prices and deals on food. For some, what funds they have available translates into being able to drive their vehicle only straight to work and back, and precious little, if any, more at all. As a result of any or all of the preceding factors, a great many people on SNAP are forced to make their grocery purchases not on the basis of where the best deals and selections can be had, but on the basis of what is located closest to their residence. Translation: the local convenience store (i.e. – stop-and-rob).

Third, there is a kind, and degree, of temptation that comes only from living in the intersection of limited money, time, and transportation. For many who receive food stamps, life is so full with work, family needs, and all the essentials related to keeping food, clothing, and shelter as happening matters in one’s life, there’s little time for leisure or pleasure. It is in that context that the temptation to maximize the self-pleasure that can be found in life’s moments is most keen. For some, that will be about making food choices not so much with the question “What’s good for me?” in mind, but with this question in view: “What tastes good to me?

And so, all of this adds up to a bit of unfairness in my project. For while I have tried to keep time close to the top as I have made my food selections, time has not always been my sole, or even number one, criteria. Similarly, I have not purchased any of my food at a convenience store close to my residence, but have instead watched for items to go on sale at large businesses and grocery stores. This has given me quite an edge not only in what I can get for the money I spend, but has also enabled me to make some more healthy and/or palatable choices. And in all of this I’ve tried to purchase food more toward the “healthy” end of the spectrum than it is toward the “this gives my taste buds a zing” end of things.

But despite these inherent shortcomings in my project’s composition, I plan to forge ahead, and will if anything by doing so know that I haven’t even begun to taste all of the challenges and difficulties associated with eating on $4.00 per day.

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