Every September the San Francisco food bank sponsors a hunger challenge that charges participants with a single task: eat on a food stamp budget for one week. Last year, that amount was four dollars a day, or 28 dollars for the entire week.
When I first learned of this concept, I was intrigued. Frankly, a food budget of four dollars a day didn't sound all that hard. It wasn't until I really gave it some thought that I realized what a challenge this could be. I quickly figured out two things. First, eating cheap for a week has its difficulties, but a month would truly force one to figure out how to make a food stamp budget work. Second, I realized that while four dollars a day didn't seem too low a sum, for me it would be a 24% reduction in my grocery budget every month.
With that, I decided to take on this challenge and for a month, eat exclusively on an Indiana food stamp budget of $4.46 a month.
I am passionate about food and cooking. The way I see it, everyone needs to eat and usually more than once a day. Why not enjoy what could ordinarily be a chore? Why not be immensely satisfied with what could otherwise be mediocre? I can think of no other single experience in our culture that brings people together the way food does. There's nothing I love more than preparing a meal and enjoying it with the people I love.
But that attitude is a bit of a luxury. I have been significantly blessed never having to wonder where my next meal will come from. For me, meals are an opportunity to be focused and expressive. To experiment and enjoy. My kitchen is one of the places I find incredibly relaxing. However, my attitude would surely be different if instead meals were a reminder of my struggle and an illustration of insufficiency.
So can I, an innovative and creative culinary mind, bridge this gap for 30 days? The tastes and tendencies of a foodie on a food stamp budget. Surely it's possible to eat for less than $4.50 a day. But for now, I can't say how my taste buds, health and spirit will fare.
My goal? To come away with this for an appreciation for what food and cooking are like for a different segment of the population. To understand what is different, what is the same and how I can channel a passion like mine to do more than just make good food.
Check out the San Francisco Food Bank's challenge here. You'll notice their official challenge kicks off this Sunday. I will be kicking off my own month-long challenge a week from tomorrow. I'll be keeping an update on the blog of what I'm cooking and eating and faring overall.
You can probably look forward to some cheap eats recipes being added soon!