EUGENE, Ore. - Could you feed yourself for $31.50 per week?
That's the National Food Stamp Challenge, which runs from November 11-17.
As part of the challenge, participants will spend $31.50 for all of their food for the entire week, which is the average food stamp benefit for individuals.
Other members of the community, including Lauren Lee from KVAL News and some from Food For Lane County, will also be participating in the challenge.
To preview the challenge and to encourage others to participate, Food for Lane County executive director Beverlee Hughes took the challenge one week early.
"One of the reasons I want to do this is I want to see for myself if I can continue to eat in a healthy manner but have to make really difficult choices with a limited amount of money," said Hughes. "I don't pretend at all that this one week challenge is gonna help me understand what a real family is going through, but it was meant to help me have a better understanding than what I have right now of how difficult this must be."
Oregon leads the nation in food stamp use. According to the Census Bureau, in 2011 some 18.9 percent - nearly 1 in 5 families - was receiving the government aid in Oregon.
Nationally, 1 in 8 families rely on food stamps.
"If you're not around it and you don't see the long lines coming out of the back of churches or pantries on the days they're open, I think some people are surprised when they hear our numbers of how high it is - the number of people who are hungry throughout Lane County," said Hughes.
In Lane County, 82,650 people are on food stamps according to October 2012 statistics from the DHS and the SNAP program.
Before the challenge, Hughes planned out every meal for the week and made a list of groceries before she arrived at WinCo.
Dana Baxter, the nutritionist at Food for Lane County, said this is something that's important to do when you have a limited budget.
"The shopping list gives you a lot more focus when you're at the grocery store. It eliminates the chances of buying some of those impulse buys at the grocery store if you don't have a shopping list," said Baxter.
Baxter says there are several ways to save money. She encourages purchasing seasonal fruits and vegetables, shopping in the bulk section of the grocery store, and purchasing ingredients to make a dish rather than pre-packaged, pre-made food.
What about protein? There are less expensive options than meats and poultry.
"Try to focus on plant based proteins like beans, legumes. You can make soups and chiles out of them. They're very high in fiber which a lot of the animal based proteins are not and you still get a lot of protein for not a lot of money," said Baxter.
After her grocery shopping, Hughes spent around $28 on meals for the entire week. We will keep you updated on her progress.
Lauren Lee from KVAL News plans to blog and tweet about her experience during the challenge and the larger issue of hunger in Oregon at #FoodStampState
What is the Food Stamp Challenge?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - also known as SNAP - makes a difference in the lives of millions of Americans across the country. The Food Stamp Challenge gives participants a view of what life can be like for the nearly 46.6 millions of low-income Americans who use food stamps. The Challenge lasts for one week, and you will live on $31.50 worth of food ($1.50 per meal), which is the average food stamp benefit. During the week - you can only eat food you've purchased with that allotment. This includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and beverages. Our Food Stamp Challenge will be the week of November 11-17, 2012.
Challenge participants are forced to make food shopping choices on a limited budget, and often realize how difficult it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy with too few resources.
While living on a food stamp budget for just a week cannot come close to the struggles encountered by low-income families week after week and month after month, it does provide those who take the Challenge with a new perspective and greater understanding.
Who is participating in the Food Stamp Challenge?
KVAL reporter Lauren Lee and members of Food For Lane County will be participating in the challenge during November 11-17. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have participated in national food stamp challenges in the past including Members of Congress, governors, state legislators, mayors, advocates for elderly persons and children, religious and community leaders, reporters, and average citizens have taken the Challenge. We encourage those in the community to participate and share your experiences!
Can I participate in the Food Stamp Challenge?
Yes! Challenge week is from November 11-17. If you would like to participate, let us know! We encourage you to tweet about your experiences, share your recipes with others, ask questions to fellow participants, and more.
We will be using the Twitter hashtag #FoodStampChallenge
What are the challenge guidelines?
1. Each person should spend a set amount for food and beverages during the Challenge week. That amount is $31.50 for all food and beverage.
2. All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including fast food and dining out, must be included in the total spending.
3. During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchase for the project. Do not eat food that you already own (this does not include spices and condiments).
4. Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or at work, including at receptions, briefings, or other events where food is served.
5. Keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of your experiences throughout the week.
6. Invite others to join you, including family, friends, co-workers, and others.
What is SNAP? Is it like food stamps?
As of Oct. 1, 2008, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the new name for the federal Food Stamp Program. The new name reflects a focus on nutrition and an increase in benefit amounts. SNAP is the federal name for the program. State programs may have different names.