Member of the Jewish Federations of North America

Greater Miami Jewish Federation

Advocacy in Action

The Food Stamp Challenge: Day 1

By Lori on 10/28/2011 @ 06:56 PM

I am very excited that the Food Stamp Challenge has begun, which is a part of Fighting Poverty with Faith. Through this experience I hope to better understand poverty on a personal level, as 15% of Americans live below the poverty line. According to the most recent data, including census statistics, Miami-Dade County poverty levels are above the national average. More than 26% of the City of Miami lives below the poverty line, which is nearly twice the national average. Given the amount of need in our community, working to end poverty by 2020, securing feeding programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as Food Stamps, are of particular importance. 1 out of 8 people in Miami’s Jewish community receives some form of financial assistance from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and our local partner agencies.

I am inspired by the community leaders and members of our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) who have decided to take this challenge and live on the average food stamp financial allotment of $4.50 per day, which is about $31.50 per week. We had 12 members of our JCRC who signed up to take the Challenge.

We launched the Food Stamp Challenge at our JCRC meeting with an informative introduction by Helen Chaset. Helen sits on our JCRC as a representative of Federation's local partner agency, Jewish Community Services of South Florida. JCS assists those who are food insufficient through meal sites, the JCS Kosher Food Bank, meal delivery and other services. These programs are in high demand, and shrinking budgets as well as a bad economy threatens their funding and future capacity. Debbie Hurwitz spoke from JCS. She is the Director of Access Services. During her presentation, Debbie detailed the programs and their significance to our Greater Miami Jewish Federation and JCS.

Laurie Flink, also a member of our JCRC, discussed her first day participating in the Challenge. Laurie depicted her experience attempting to live on a $1.50 per meal. She discovered that a local supermarket provided free coffee. While drinking her coffee, Laurie noticed two senior adults sitting next to her who had brought their food to the market. The two were sitting together sharing a peanut butter sandwich.

At our JCRC meetings, we typically serve an abundance of goodies. At this meeting, I abstained from eating any of the food in the spirit of the Challenge. I did not realize that one must budget time as well as money throughout this process. The result of this initiative, even after one day, is that I have really been put in more of the mindset of someone who is poor or hungry. You need to be organized and plan meals. Laurie seemed to approach the Food Stamp Challenge from the mindset of someone truly on a budget and experiencing the challenge of poverty. Like the senior adults that she had seen earlier in the day, Laurie brought a peanut butter sandwich to our meeting. Moreover, she shared her sandwich with Helen Chaset, paralleling the experience further.

Again, I did not approach the Food Stamp Challenge with as much foresight and planning as Laurie. So, I watched as others satiated their hunger and thirst. I imagined what it would be like to be a child in which the lunch program had been cut. I felt uncomfortable and sad – besides a hunger for food, I felt left out. As we identify, food sustains us physically and emotionally, and being food insecure is unhealthy for the body and soul.

As a component of our JCRC meeting, we viewed the trailer of the documentary film Food Stamped. This film chronicles a couple as they participate in the Food Stamp Challenge and attempt to maintain a healthy diet. I must confess, I consider myself relatively health-conscious. However, it is difficult to follow a healthy diet on a very strict budget. For my version of the Food Stamp Challenge, I am going to try to budget each meal under $1.50. Today, I had an apple, some lettuce and a can of soup with beans for dinner. If I plan better, then maybe I will eat better.

Lori Dearman

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