Hi! We’re happy to offer you this forum for sharing your experiences in your efforts to shop, cook, and eat a healthy diet on a tight budget.
Story shared by Yoav and Shira February 24, 2011 at 3:00 am
We are so happy to see a film like this. We are a family of 6 (my husband, myself and 4 boys- ages 19, 16, 9 and 2) trying to survive on a single income of under $22,000 a year. My husband works very hard cleaning at a hospital. Our oldest son works PT at a grocery store and helps out also. We get food stamps, though ever decreasing. We currently get $297. a month in food stamps, just decreased from $318?!?!
I grew up eating “poor” food. My mom always made sure we had food, a lot of the time a hot meal though she worked her butt off as a single mom of 3 working in a meat packing plant right outside of Boston (for way too little pay). So though I can’t knock the fact we had food, I have since learned a lot about what we eat and what we shouldn’t. We were already sickened (in some ways literally) by what we had the choices of in the store for food, when we first watched Food Inc. That was almost 3 years ago. Since then, we have made steady improvements to our diets, some areas faster than others. We ceased eating out (especially at ‘cheap’ places like McDonald’s)immediately. We began only purchasing 100% organic grass fed beef (and chicken) from a local farmer, we have increased our intake of fresh fruits and veggies a lot, certain fruits and veggies MUST be organic, cut soda completely out of our diet, cut way back on HFCS- almost to non existence in our house, as well as other things we have continued since before the movie. Like, we abhor artificial sweeteners (though we had a jaunt with them during a time of Atkins dieting), even in our tooth paste and we stay away from margarine and other blatantly ‘false’ products. We, at one time made more than double what my husband makes now but through a series of unfortunate events, we are where we are. So the food budget is what is left to ‘tighten the belt’ on.
We Homeschool our boys. The one real positive from this, is this is the most valuable life lesson anyone can be a part of and so far the kids have mostly kept that attitude about all we have been through.
The problem we have with choosing to eat better on the food stamp budget(and I totally get why that man in the movie trailer is buying cases of Ramen noodles, I used to do that too)is we wind up foodless after about a week and a half for the rest of the month. We have been forced back into getting food from the local food pantry (Thank God for them though) which gives us mainly every food we have sworn off of as our only way to get by for most of the month. Along with that, we spend roughly $300 of our own money to contribute to the better stuff we eat.
I love to cook but even I throw my hands up at times and say, “forget this!” Otherwise, every waking moment of my life would be spent baking, cooking and cleaning up! I have gotten quite resourceful when it comes to making a good meal out of very little and I have learned how to stretch a little bit of meat to go a LOOOONG way!
My husband feels like a failure on a daily basis because though he works very hard, we can’t even buy food and afford to keep our families health at the top of our priority list. It is more than a choice for us really, I have under active thyroid, Graves disease from a life of over active thyroid before this, fibromyalgia, psoriasis plus other funky hormone related issues and high blood pressure (which I currently take medicine for, unfortunately). Our 9 year old son had asthma which since eating better has not called for the use of his inhaler (in almost 2 years)! We learned how to treat my husbands acid reflux naturally, using sauerkraut instead of with increasing meds repeatedly to no avail. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is, it is so much easier to eat badly in larger quantities than it is to eat healthy in nearly non existent quantities because of our income. That is shameful to us. We keep hearing that food stamps is not supposed to replace our food bill, just supplement it. We are encouraged at every turn to eat cheaper, GMO ladened corporate financed ‘food’ at every turn. We get people looking down their noses at us for buying organic food on our food stamps and yet also for buying junk on our food stamps?!?!?! We appreciate the effort the folks at the food pantry and places like Angelfood Ministries make to feed the people who need it but why is it just commonplace to feed the most people in the cheapest way? Why is this where budgets get trimmed? Why is it that people at the top don’t understand that by feeding us lowly poor people better (meaning better quality AND quantity) at the bottom, that we can function better and be healthier to work ourselves to death for them longer and more efficiently?
It has been horrible trying to make our dollar stretch to feed our family well. At times our convictions are a pain but when we are forced to waver on them, it is a huge never ending guilt trip we put on ourselves. Funny also how the same people telling you to eat what you can on whatever you get from ‘us’ and be happy with it are also the ones behind pushing people to eat better (even though the food they are pushing is not healthy- just healthier than say your average bag of chips). It isn’t impossible but it is VERY difficult. We have become so informed about what we eat (out of necessity) that I dread going grocery shopping because it just takes so long and so much effort… when you are hungry and just want to get home and eat, it is even worse. I know our story is probably like everyone else’s and nothing special but we are so happy someone else sees the issue at hand and is actually addressing it, that we figured it couldn’t hurt to voice our concerns and frustrations to someone who is obviously here to help and hear!
Thank you for letting me vent but mostly for understanding our problems and acting on it!!
Story shared by The Greenough Family June 30, 2011 at 8:49 am
Whenever I’m online in a forum and I bring my personal food stamps story into the discussion, I am called a liar. Flat-out. That’s it. The shutters come down and the discussion with me is over. I think that’s because when they first hear my story, nobody WANTS to believe it.
Fear is what causes people to lash out, and it‘s that knee-jerk reaction that leads to immediate disbelief and rejection. Those who might think, “Oh, if I can’t afford food, the state will provide for me” are terrified by the notion that the might NOT get help. Hence the disbelief, anger and rejection of the truth when they hear it. Whatever the average population thinks that those on the bottom of the financial ladder may receive from the various social programs and support services that are in place at the moment, allegedly to assist the disadvantaged, they’re horribly mistaken as to the level of generosity involved.
In 2010, I applied for food stamps… and I was granted a mere $22 a month by the State of California. I rejected this “generous” offer, partly because I could make as much or more money selling off items that I find curbside on Trash Night, and partly because it required me to work for the county for twenty-two hours that month in trade. They scheduled my first work day on a day when I already had a $15/hour temp job lined up (note that the “trade” for the county would have been the equivalent of $1/hour wage). Therefore, to get out of that work day, I needed to bring a letter from my employer to the office. The problem was that I received my first work notice less than a day and a half before that county’s scheduled day. And the way the system works is that if you miss a day, your benefits are suspended for a month. Miss two days, and it’s two months. And so on.
The $22 that they bestowed upon me was decided based on the two previous month’s pay stubs that I showed them… which was actually only ONE pay stub, because I’d made only $500 doing a clinical trial for UCLA. Everything else that I’d used to get through the previous two months was because I’d sold off personal property for cash and, thus, had no further proof of income.
I wrote this all up in an Amazon Kindle article, “Notice of Action – Food Stamps Approval: $22 / Month” (which, incidentally, has yet to sell even one copy). I think the lack of sales is because those who have nothing to do with the food stamp system simply aren’t interested in knowing anything about it, and prefer to cling to pre-conceived notions rather than hear firsthand accounts of how things REALLY go.
Thank G_d that I do not have any dependents, and that I have served my country! I am former military and designated at 10% disability for in-service conditions (and get free medical care–no vison or dental, though), but my medical issues should have rated me higher in the V.A. system. In fact, I had to apply twice just to get the 10%. I have been fighting to avoid unemployment, welfare and Social Security, to avoid food banks and charities because there are those with families who really need that aid, and I have sold off nearly everything that I own and charged up my credit cards in a desperate attempt to remain independent and responsible for my own debts. Without a job, though, these stop-gap measures that have kept me going for four years and off public aid (and which could easily be rectified within a year and a half, if I could just get one decent full-time job!) are on the verge of crumbling.
For 30 days I challenged myself to live on $3 per day. It was not easy and I went over budget some days. Still, I managed to incorporate fresh vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and fresh fruits. Some feedback I received when beginning the challenge was that it would be very difficult and unhealthy. That I’d be living on processed and overly salted foods. Well, that did not happen. We all have choices, every day, on how we nourish our bodies. Some have more options than others, however, it’s about doing the best with what you have. Rather than wishing you had more and then blaming those more advantaged for your personal blight.
Have a look at my blog and you decide if it was healthy enough. Fresh mixed greens with broccoli, homemade beans and rice on hand rolled tortillas, and so much more.
Thank you for making this incredibly important film!