Editor’s Note: Deb Heinrich, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s liaison to the state’s nonprofit community, agreed to take the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge this month and live on $4 a day for food for a week. We are posting her experience in this blog over the next few days.
After a fifth morning in a row eating delicious and nutritious oatmeal with brown sugar, we’ve decided that this should actually be called the “SNAP at you challenge.” Yes, I was a bit grumpy this morning. My mother, however, loved the oatmeal. I brought the one left over tortilla with refried beans and rice with me for lunch for us to share along with, yup, you guessed it, black beans and rice. I also decided to eat my second apple. Can you believe it? I forgot the salsa. Lunch. Bland but filling. I was so thankful that my mom didn’t complain. I might have gotten grumpy again.
I was pretty hungry this afternoon. We’re going to finish up the lentil soup tonight. I’m really getting down to the nitty gritty. Carrots…gone. Apples…gone. One more serving of black beans and rice that we’ll share for lunch tomorrow. I think I have enough oatmeal for the two of us through Saturday. I now have celery, some dried lentils, a few cups of uncooked rice, a few tortillas and peanut butter to work with. Oh yes, I have an onion and some garlic too. I’m not really going to count the brown sugar, salt, salsa and oil. The peanut butter is hard to count too because it is made with so much oil (ingredients: peanuts, peanut oil, corn syrup, rapeseed and cottonseed oils) I feel sick after I eat it. I don’t have much left anyway.
A month ago, I promised to make a large pan of baked ziti for a gathering on Friday (tomorrow). It seemed so strange to be making this dish that I will not be eating. It was even stranger to realize that it cost $12.46 to make. It smells SOOO good. I miss cheese. Even more than cheese, I miss salad.
A typical salad for me: romaine lettuce, a chopped tomato, a chopped carrot, goat cheese, glazed walnuts, and a handful of sprouted lentils, all topped with balsamic vinaigrette. Conservatively adding up the ingredients, that would come to about $6. Even a pared down salad without the nuts and goat cheese would run me about $3. If all I had was $4 to eat all day, that would never fly. I have the added benefit of having all of these ingredients available to me in my local store. As I understand it, there are many inner city neighborhoods that lack fresh fruits and vegetables in their little bodega grocery stores. Even if they are there, if you add up how much it costs to have a simple salad, I can see why some people would reach for other options. The only green I’ve had was a jalapeno and some celery.
I’ve had some folks question why I am sharing my food with my mother who came to visit me unexpectedly this week. I did so because that is part of life. People who live on the SNAP benefits have mothers who come to visit unexpectedly too and they have to make due. Though I’m not sure my mother will be running over here again anytime soon after the meals I’ve been serving her. I am quite certain she can’t wait to get home and have a banana.