Friday, July 4, 2008

Food Stamps -- What do You Think?

Wastrel Show is advertising a unique opportunity:

visit her post on food stamps, watch the Katie Couric report, then let the producer know what you think about it!

How often can you feel that someone in TV Land is actually hearing what you're saying? Well, now's your chance...

I don't know what to think, quite frankly.

Growing up as a little farm girl, I took fresh produce and hormone-free beef for granted -- it just meant that we had our own garden and butchered a steer every fall. It wasn't until I moved away, soon after high school, that I realized that not everyone either knew how to do this -- or they chose not to do it.

Dave and I were sooo broke as college students that the food stamp budget mentioned on the report -- $23 and change for each person -- would have been a fortune. We lived on sale items, day-old or home-baked bread, lots of beans, peanut butter sandwiches, chicken noodle soup -- and ramen. (Sapporo Ichiban was terrific and just as cheap as the generic if you bought it at the Chinese market in Ann Arbor.) I grew greens in a small spot outside our apartment, and when we could, we got a garden plot. We also purchased fruit and veggies from farmers' markets and orchards in season, then froze or canned them for winter.

What would I have done if I lived in New York City? I'd still have a pot on the windowsill or fire escape for greens, herbs and maybe even a cherry tomato plant. But that's can take the girl off the farm, but you can't take the farm outa the girl.

What I would do, if I were in these people's shoes, would be to re-think what I'm buying, with the goal of stretching those funds as far as possible. Frozen pancakes? No way -- it would be pancake mix in the cart, or if I was really pushing it, just flour, baking powder, eggs and dried milk.

Soda? Nope. Drink mix -- plus some large bottles of generic stuff to add for fizziness. Better for you -- and cheaper. Or milk -- the best of all. A bottle of chocolate syrup, if I really wanted to put on the hog.

Small boxes of frozen veggies. Canned soup. Noodles, macaroni for stamina. Peanut butter, eggs, chicken and whatever meats were on sale, for strength. Canned or fresh fruit. Tomato sauce and cheese, to add to the soup, use with the pasta for marinara or macaroni and cheese, or make a pizza. Potatoes and onions, for possibilities. Plus a bunch of flowers.

I was reminded of this when making lunches for the Spanish VBS crew this week. They loved to eat -- but noticed the flowers in the glass on the table. It's not just your stomach that's being fed -- it's your soul. You need to nourish it well.

Cubans, based on a report filed by Anita Snow last year for the Boston Globe, are used to living on $50 a month for the family:

Says Snow: "For 30 days, I lived on a similar program. I spent less than $17 for a month's sustenance, dropped nine pounds and learned -- like Cubans -- to budget carefully, plan meals ahead, buy only what was necessary and never throw food away.
Most importantly, I realized that like most Americans, I take food for granted, assuming I'll always get what I want when I want it."

Hmmm. What were we Americans griping about, again?

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