New documentary “Food Stamped” explores whether you can eat healthy on food stamps

1 in 10 Americans trying to live on $1 per meal: A new documentary called "Food Stamped" follows a couple (a nutrition educator in low-income neighborhoods and her filmmaker husband) as they attempt to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet on a food stamp budget of just a buck a meal. Food justice activists, nutrition experts, politicians, and ordinary people living on food stamps weigh in on the struggles low-income Americans face every day. this looks fantastic. Trailer below, screening this Sunday in Berkeley (see screenings).

12 Responsesto “New documentary “Food Stamped” explores whether you can eat healthy on food stamps”

  1. Red Icculus says:

    America is a culture of welfare dependence at the expense of those that actually pay taxes.  If you don't eat well because your welfare check is too small, that seems like a good motivation to get a job.

  2. Hmm... our family eats for about 69¢/person/meal on average over the year. I don't feel we're lacking at all. It's not all that hard. When times have been tight we've cut that to about a third of that. Perhaps modeling and teaching frugality would be a good thing to go along with the food stamps. I grew up with it so I absorbed it but I know all to many people who don't know how to even cook. The biggest key is learning to plan, shop, prepare food well and to use all those wonderful leftovers. Eating well need not be expensive.

  3. Red, the endless compassion and humanity you display in this comment section never ceases to amaze me.  Maybe you haven't noticed, but we're in a recession. Hundreds of thousands of people have been laid off and unemployment is rising. Presumably none of your friends and family are autoworkers, banking minions, or other people directly affected by the economic upheaval we're experiencing. These are the people probably most challenged by eating within a welfare check.

    Walter, are you factoring in the cost of your and your family's labor in the meat that you raise and presumably eat for free in that 69 cents per meal? And yes, it is key to learn to plan, shop, and cook smartly to do so. In our fast-food throwaway society, too few people know how to do so.

  4. No, but even if you did include the cost of what we raise it would still be less than $1/person/meal/day.

    If you want to factor that in though also factor in the savings we make by not having television, not doing sport (we get our exercise in the gardens) and all the other health and life benefits. Someone else spends money and time on entertainment, we spend it raising food, cutting wood, building our house, etc.

    People make choices. They can choose to raise some of their own food or not. They can choose to cook, shop carefully, etc. The cooking from raw ingredients and careful shopping are far bigger effects than even raising the food.

    Another factor to consider is not buying prepared food, not eating out. When one buys prepared foods, either at the market, fast food, restaurant, etc, one is paying for the service.

    Again, a choice. If we want to keep our food budgets down, and eat better making good choices makes the difference.

    I do expect that this is more difficult to do in the cities since everything has been paved over but I've read about community gardening and container gardening by people even in ultra-urban areas. It's doable.

  5. Another thought, the people who most need this knowledge are generally not getting it. As in they just don't get it. It isn't important to them. It has dropped out of their ken and their culture. Thus it will be even harder to bring this knowledge back to them. I have a friend who had never cooked before she was 40. She was amazed that Holly and I cook all our meals. When she baked her first cake, from a mix, it was a really major milestone for her. Now she cooks. Keep leading by example. Chip away at it.

  6. Thinking more about this... One key is shopping patterns. We only shop once in a great while. It can be two or three months between shopping trips. This means we buy in larger quantities of raw materials. As you buy larger quantities the price drops dramatically. The reason is simple, it costs a lot for packaging, wholesaling, transport, sorting, display and retailing of small items so they bring a premium price.

    Ah, you say, but you can't be poor and buy in bulk. Well, you're wrong. I did it for many years when things were tight. It is all about patterns of behavior. If doing it is a goal you can build up your larder in time. Once again we get back to a learned skill and motivations. Most people lack the motivation since they have so many convenience stores, work in town and can go shopping any time. That is extremely inefficient both in terms of their money spent and their time. Before you asked about the value of my time for growing things. Well, if I'm not wasting time waiting in checkout lines and going to stores, burning gas or paying fares in the process, then I can spend that time in the  garden, where I would rather be.

    Now we get back to the whole urban vs rural problem. I don't know how city folk do it. Not my ken.

  7. Aimee says:

    Walter, I'm curious about what you guys eat that you don't produce yourselves. I assume you eat your own meat, eggs, and fresh vegetables and fruit, but what about flour, rice, dried legumes, pasta etc? Milk? Cheese?What about winter, which is long where you are? Do you eat only your own preserved produce, or do you buy fresh? Citrus? Bananas? Grapes? Coffee, chocolate? I'm a very budget conscious housewife and I know it's hard to produce a balanced meal for under $1/serving. Very hard. And even our own homegrown meat works out to somewhere between $2 and $4 a pound, depending on the animal. Most of that is butchering cost. Do you do your own butchering?
    I agree with you that most people could contribute something to their own nutrition and bring costs down by doing so, but most people can't make more than a small contribution if they live in the city and hold down a full time job. Even if you can raise a few chickens and have a decent container garden in the city, those eggs are going to be more costly than eggs from the store (but better!) and almost nobody is prepared to do their own chicken processing anymore. 

  8. See http://sugarmtnfarm.com/blog/2007/07/week-of-food.html which answers most of your questions. Having someone else do the the slaughter is a luxury and would certainly drive up the cost.

  9. Parke says:

    The interesting SNAP or food stamp challenge is to try to get enough food for about $5.50 per person per day, which is the target food budget the program is designed to support.  You may agree or disagree that $0.69 or $1.00 per meal suffices, but those austere targets have little connection to the real situation most low-income Americans face.  The $5.50 per day challenge is still difficult for most people who try it, and it has more to teach as an exercise that offers insight on food justice in the United States.

  10. jane G. says:

    But how much it costs is very relevant because if we over represent the cost of good eating the cost of SOLE food then people wont even try to eat well. This gets back into the same false argument being made about the livable wage where they have costs that are really middle class and not basic living. It creates unrealistic expectations. The expectations in this country have become such that people think they can't make it on a low income and a low income is looked down upon by those with more. This is a nasty cycle. Expect less in the material world girl.

  11. lmt says:

    Wow, ignorance is bliss.  When I was a child my family used food stamps for a brief period of time during the '80's.  My dad is a farmer (soybeans and corn), but since it was a recession he didn't make much money and we qualified for assistance. 
    Even with "food" being grown literally outside the back door it was very trying for my parents to feed our family.  The food stamps gave a buffer for us.  There may be 1 in 10 Americans that qualify for food stamps but there is still a stigma attached to it and many who could get them don't because they are to embarrassed to use them in the grocery.
    With the current economy the focus needs to be how to eat healthily on a budget.  More green grocers need to accept WIC and food stamps so people who rely on that way to pay for food have more options that will allow them to eat a well rounded diet.

  12. Tammy says:

    I am always amazed at peoples perception of others when it comes to issues such as food stamps etc. My husband had a liver transplant 2 years ago. NO, not because he drank to much or did drugs. It was due to a genetic disorder. The day his employer was told he could come back to work, he was laid off. Which means we lost our main source of income. I was working full time, but there was no way my paycheck would cover our expenses. We were able to sale our home for exactly what we owed on it to get out from under a payment we knew we'd not be able to make. Had no credit card debt to worry about. He was finally able to find work as a contractor for a few months here and there. When employers see his age and learn of the transplant, nobody will hire him. For the first time in our lives, we broke down and went to family services to see what help there was. We were notified that we qualify for over $600.00 a month in food stamps. We were so surprised. We haven't spent that much on groceries per month since he was laid off from Embarq!!! I may not have mentioned we are a family of 5, and bring home less than $1300.00 a month. Yes, I have looked for other jobs, but my current job allows me to bring my children if need be, so I pay no child care costs. Any other job available in our area, requires me to work hours that would mean paying child care......which would take a huge portion of my paycheck. Out of that we  pay our rent, utilities and 2 cell phones, and put gas in our car. So we are not some family of bums who is waiting or wanting all the other tax payers in the country to take care of us, however at this time in our lives we are incredibly greatful that we will have a way to feed our kids something other than hotdogs and grilled cheese next month. In the mean time, my husband takes medicine that costs $892.00 per month. We have been able to get the company to work with us due to income and provide it for him. However, we have no way of getting the monthly lab work done that he needs done in order to know if his medicine needs adjusted. So for those of you who have all the answers, please take into consideration that everyone goes through times in life when it's just hard to figure out what to do.........and nobody gets through life all by themselves. At some point in your life you have needed help from someone...a friend, a family member, or the government..........be greatful that today it's not you.