Food Aid Blamed for Obesity
According to an April 20 opinion piece by Laura Vanderkam in USA Today, experts found that women who receive food stamps are more likely to be overweight. This is a concern because one in eight Americans receives food stamps.
I grew up in the 50s and 60s with a single mom. She was a lunch waitress in an Italian restaurant. That was the total source of her income. We were never on welfare (food stamps didn’t begin until 1964), although I’m sure we would have qualified.
There wasn’t a lot of money for anything. We NEVER went out to eat. We NEVER had cookies, soda or chips in our house. Guess what, we didn’t starve, (and we weren’t overweight) even though our cupboards were mostly bare. My mom wasn’t the best at planning a food budget, although she DID know how to cook.
Structure of Food Assistance Questioned
Some experts believe the structure in which those on food assistance deserve some of the blame with obesity. Presently, benefits are given electronically once a month. They say the spending cycle is lopsided, leaving families without much food the last week of the month. The average benefit is $124 per month per person. Their answer is twice-monthly payments, forcing people to save a portion of their food budget for the latter part of the month.
I don’t believe that is the solution. First of all, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) is designed to be supplemented with other income. (Notice the word “supplemental” in SNAP.) Food stamps are not intended to be the only source of food for a family. Okay, we know that isn’t always the case.
How Can a Family Live on Less?
A while back, I gave a talk to Colorado Homeless. This is a work/school program and everyone in the program receives food stamps. I thought it would be unrealistic to speak about the importance of whole foods if a family couldn’t afford to purchase them. I used $150, which is half the monthly food provision for two people, (Jefferson County in Colorado the food stamp allotment is $300 per month) and purchased food for two weeks. (This is a little more than the $250, the national average for a month mentioned in the USA Today article.
What makes more sense than staggering the monthly food allotment is to offer a means in which recipients can actually spend less to feed their family. The key to managing on a food stamp budget is to BUDGET.
Parke Wilde from Tufts University said, “Families spend most of their benefits in that first shop.” He goes on to mention that most run out of grocery money the last week of the month.
Bulk shopping makes sense…when a food plan is used. Purchasing larger amounts is more economical when on a limited food budget. Information on how to realistically feed a family for a month on the food allotment is needed, not staggering payments. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people perish from a lack of knowledge.” We need to give families, especially those on food stamps, knowledge on how to manage with a limited budget.
Expensive Processed Foods Eat Up Food Budget
Families will never make it on food stamps alone purchasing expensive nutrient-lacking processed foods. It’s guaranteed they’ll run out of food long before the month has ended if they purchase junk food or snack foods.
In other cultures, people manage to be healthy with little meat. Brown rice and beans make a complete protein. Nutritious recipes can be made using less expensive whole grains. Every culture has vegetarian dishes.
I shopped at only one store for my two-week food plan. I made Spanish rice and beans, cheesy salmon casserole, spinach and tomato medley, lentil pilaf, and grilled chicken breasts. Meat wasn’t featured in every meal, but it wasn’t absent either. Expensive processed breakfast cereals were avoided. Oatmeal (and other grains) made from scratch make an economical and healthy breakfast. The oatmeal can be used for a special treat: cookies.
Processed Foods Feed Obesity
Unhealthy eating habits and obesity will be conquered when families take the time to cook. It’s vital to spend time planning a weekly meal schedule and cooking. Why not start a family on food assistance with a sample monthly shopping list and recipes for the food purchased?
One of my favorite meals my mom would make is bean soup. She’d soak the beans overnight and make the soup the next day. (Dry beans are cheaper than canned beans.) Soups are a wonderful way to stretch food dollars. Spaghetti with a marinara sauce is another economical meatless meal and my mom would make her own sauce.
Whole foods, like fresh produce, whole grains, and dairy, satisfy hunger and pack a lot of nutrition into a few bites. It’s possible to eat whole foods on a food stamp budget. In fact, it’s necessary to make food dollars stretch until the end of the month. Whole foods are nutrient-dense and are packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and essential amino and fatty acids. Whole foods take longer to digest, warding off food cravings between meals.
To find out how I spent my food stamp budget Click Here.