Community SNAP Challenge

I’ve been really lax about posting lately.  A lot of stuff at church.

I’ve been trying to organize a SNAP challenge for Pittsfield following a recent conversation I had with our representative to Beacon Hill, Tricia Farley-Bouvier.

SNAP is Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps.  It’s administered by the US Department of Agriculture.  It was also one of the reasons the recent Farm Bill died in the US House of Representatives – because cuts to SNAP were too drastic.

The basic SNAP benefit in Massachusetts is $132.51 per month per person, which is a little more than $4.40 a day.  That’s to cover all food and drink.  Sitting here with my morning coffee makes me realize that each cup I’m drinking is $0.20 (OK, so I grind our fair trade beans every morning).  But two cups is almost a tenth of my daily food budget and I haven’t even had anything solid to eat (I haven’t calculated the three banana pancakes I made this morning.)

Anyway, it’s coming together.  The challenge is a seven-day period during which participants eat on a SNAP budget.  The rules include all one eats and drinks during the period and cannot include previously purchased food.  (Such as, that half-loaf of bread at the start of the challenge?  No.  Can’t eat it.)  It also can’t include free food, such as food at receptions or free lunches.)  The Berkshire delegation to Beacon Hill will do it together beginning on July 8.  We want people in Pittsfield to join in this as well.

Here are the details:

SNAP Challenge for the Community

 Background

SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps) and is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture.  It provides food assistance to people who have low incomes.  They might be individuals, families with children, disabled veterans, and elderly people.

 SNAP benefits come with restrictions noted below:

Households CAN use SNAP benefits to buy:
Foods for the household to eat, such as:

breads and cereals;
fruits and vegetables;
meats, fish and poultry; and
dairy products

Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.

In some areas, restaurants can be authorized to accept SNAP benefits from qualified homeless, elderly, or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals.

Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:
Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco;
Any nonfood items, such as;

pet foods;
soaps, paper products; and
household supplies.
Vitamins and medicines.

Food that will be eaten in the store.
Hot foods.

Income factors into the size of one’s SNAP benefits.  The average SNAP benefit per person per month in Massachusetts is $132.51   Based upon a 30-day month, the average amount of money to spend for all food and beverages would be $4.42 per person per day.

The Challenge

This SNAP challenge will begin on Monday, July 8 and end on Sunday, July 28.  During this period choose a one-week period in which you (and those members of your household who choose to participate) will live on a SNAP budget, $4.42, per person per day.

A community supper for SNAP challenge participants will be held on Sunday, July 28.  This will be a time to share our reflections about our experiences and plan steps we could take as a community towards greater food justice.  This meal will be a free-will offering.

Challenge Guidelines

  1. Each person should spend a set amount for food and beverages during the Challenge week. That amount is $4.42 x number participating 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.

 Notes

  • Before embarking upon this challenge, some preparatory work will help, such as making a mental note of the food and beverages we consume without thinking (e.g, the morning coffee or tea) or managing special dietary requirements.
  • The entire Berkshire delegation to Beacon Hill will participate starting on July 8
  • Faith communities can do this together.  (Suggestion: Commission all the participants liturgically in a worship service at the start of the one-week period and then release them in worship the following week.)
  • Note this challenge begins on the first day of Ramadan, a Muslim festival during which time Muslims fast for the entire day and then break it at night.  Ramadan helps people remember those who don’t have enough food.
  • Post your reflections during your challenge to social media or keep a journal.  If you use Twitter, use #snapbrk as the hashtag

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About Quentin Chin

Eclectic interests: religion, technology, food, music, current events. I live in the reality-based world.
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