Imagine if you have $31.50 per week for food, that’s $4.50 a day, and $1.50 per meal. Individuals benefitting from the Supplemental Nutrition Food Assistance Program (SNAP) receive $31.50 to purchase weekly food, so ask yourself, how many times per week do you go to Starbucks? The price for one tall coffee is $1.86, which is $0.36 more than SNAP gives for one meal. Think about that, one Starbucks coffee is more that the amount an individual on SNAP receives to purchase an entire meal.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in an advocacy program that showed what it would feel like to receive SNAP. The program, “The Food Stamp Shopping Challenge”, was sponsored by Yad Ezra for some of the Jewish professionals in our community as well as the other interns in my internship program. We arrived at Walmart and were split into teams. Each team was given a scenario, my team’s scenario included six people—two grandparents, two parents, and two children, where one child was lactose intolerant. Each team was also given a giftcard with the appropriate amount that the family would have to spend, thus my team had $189. The activity was split into two parts, we planned the week’s meals for the first part of the program, and then the shopping began. While shopping we had to remember two things, one—that all of the food purchased had to be Kosher (because it was later donated to Yad Ezra), and two—that we had to assume that the family did not have any condiments.
When it was time to purchase all the food, my team still had $20 left to spend, which was extremely surprising because we thought that we would not have enough money to buy everything in our cart. This was a very eye-opening experience because I have never thought about how much I spend for many brand name items that I could get for a much lower price. The next time you are at a grocery store, look around at the prices from brand to brand, and I am sure you will be very surprised.