Alliance Issues A SNAP Challenge

3/25/2013 11:50 AM


A recent Yahoo Shine article examined the difficulties of eating a healthy diet while living in poverty and relying on food stamps (now renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP).  As the article pointed out, the average American family spends about $21.57 per person per day on food.  However, those living in poverty often have only $4.00 per person per day to spend.

Many politicians, chefs and others have taken the week-long “SNAP Challenge” to better understand the difficulties low income Americans face to put healthy and satisfying meals on the table for $4.00 per person.  Needless to say, those who take the SNAP Challenge find that it is exactly that – a challenge.

The Yahoo Shine article focused on The Biro family of four from Boston who recently accepted the SNAP Challenge (Peter Biro also wrote a more in-depth essay documenting their week).  Here are a couple excerpts from the Yahoo Shine article:

"I was surprised by how hard it is to fit into the diet the fruits and vegetables that our family is used to eating," she told Yahoo! Shine. "That was probably the most striking shift for us."

"I don't think I ever really stepped back and thought, 'How much does the food on my plate actually cost?'" he told Yahoo! Shine. Checking daily sales at local supermarkets helped him stretch his grocery dollars, and buying in bulk at Costco and cooking from scratch helped him save even more, but he recognizes that the working poor wouldn't have the time or money to do either.

Those involved in efforts to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables know that cost and convenience are both barriers to eating more produce.  Therefore when activists and other groups unfairly disparage the safety of more affordable and accessible fruits and vegetables it is a disservice to consumers, especially those that fall into the low income category, and public health in general.  What motivates these groups to promote and publicize negative, misleading safety messages that are counterproductive to public health efforts is probably irrelevant because the net effect is the same – their efforts may be scaring people away from the very foods we should all be eating more of.

Therefore, the Alliance is issuing this challenge to groups that continually and unfairly disparage healthy and more affordable conventionally grown fruits and vegetables:  Take the SNAP Challenge and limit your spending to $4.00 per person per day on food for one week.  For groups that promote “good produce, bad produce,” shopping lists we have an additional challenge.  Take the SNAP Challenge while adhering to your so-called “shopping guide” lists.  Can your families consume the recommended amount of fruits and veggies using these “lists” on $4.00 per person a day?

After taking the challenge, maybe these groups will agree that the best advice for all consumers is the most simple – eat more of conventional and organic produce.  Both are very safe and can be eaten with confidence.  And decades of nutritional studies show that the health benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies is indisputable.  So, if one choice is more accessible or affordable, the right choice is always to eat more.  

So,  who will agree to take the SNAP Challenge first?  We’ll let you know. 

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