A couple of years ago, I came across a crowd sourced fundraiser for a book Called Good and Cheap: Living Well on $4 a day. If you know it, I think you’ll agree it’s an ambitious, beautiful, well executed concept. Leanne Brown is the author, a food studies scholar who wanted to provide a resource for people on SNAP, food assistance benefits in the United States.
The reality is that as of August 2015, the USDA reports more than 45 million people living in the United States receive assistance providing their household with food.
45,495,380 people are eligible for, and are currently receiving money for food, because their household cannot make ends meet.
My home state of Alaska has 85,117 people participating in the program. We are a large state, but don’t have a very large population, roughly 736,000, and that’s very alarming math. More than 8.5% of the people I went to school with or will see in the store live in a household that cannot provide them with adequate nutrition. In reality that number is actually much larger. These are only the people who qualify, based on residency, citizenship, income, household size, and work status to name a few factors. There are plenty of people who fall through this framework, but still need services.
And yet, 8.5% is still a very abstract number. In reality, this means that the last class I taught had 34 students; of those, statistics say 4 are on food stamps. They come to school without supplies, they have parents who cannot come to fundraisers or class trips because shift work doesn’t let them take time off, and in some cases, the school lunch provided to them yesterday was the last meal they had before lunch today. The situation is certainly more complex, with individual families and circumstances, but
having a single child in every classroom on food support, let alone four, is simply too many.
To better meet the needs of families with only $4 a day to feed each person, we return to the topic at hand. The Good and Cheap cookbook takes a a look at how you can cook good food, with fresh ingredients, for an affordable $4 a day. I can tell you from experience the recipes are easy, the food is good, and on a college student budget, I use these recipes often.
If you want to check out some of the recipes, Brown keeps a blog of seasonal favorites. In addition
the original book can be found FOR FREE on Leanne Brown’s website
If you do find the cookbook useful, like the amazing perogies recipe, or ways to make anti-boring oatmeal, the 2nd edition of Good and Cheap is now out. It promises more delicious recipes, and when you buy one, you help get a copy of the book to someone who can’t afford it.
If you’re looking for those links again, Leanne Brown is the creator of Good and Cheap, the delicious cookbook helping families (and college students!), make good food on a tight budget.
Lastly, if you’re looking for more information on who uses food assistance programs in the US, some interesting stories and perspectives can be found at The Daily Dot, I have a Masters Degree and a Full time Job and I’m Still Applying for Food Stamps, and Forbes breaks down Who Receives Food Stamps in useful visuals. If you’re looking for something a little different, try playing SPENT, an online simulator that takes you through a month as a low income worker raising a child. I made it through the month with $212 left, before paying rent of course. How’s your budgeting?