By Mark Cahill & Lindsey Bissett
Mark and Lindsey, a local couple, decided to take the SNAP Challenge together. Here is what they had to say about the experience:
Mark: Lindsey and I are both creative, pragmatic and thoroughly enjoy cooking. When you combine these particulars, you will understand our approach to the SNAP Challenge. To us, the most practical and cheapest way to meet this challenge would be to buy nothing pre-made and make multi-purpose items ourselves. In addition to keeping our costs down, it also meant our meals were a little healthier. With flour, which is cheap, we could make loaves of bread, pizza dough, soups and stews.
Lindsey: Mark makes this sound so perfect! He failed to mention that he’d never made bread before without a machine. I actually looked at the finished loaf and said, “Oh, you’re not going to bake it?” But that was it, a flat disc of… bread?
Mark: Had we bought only a loaf of sandwich bread, we would have been out twice the amount of money, with an item that had only one use.
Lindsey: But our taste buds would have remained intact.
Mark: At the end of the week, we found that we were actually quite successful. However, we also knew that we were very fortunate, since we knew how to make these meals and were a short walk from affordable and healthy food.
Lindsey: There was only one day where I found myself hungry, but I didn’t want to overeat and then not have enough another time, or then be eating a portion of Mark’s food. So I was really hungry and cranky. During the week, I made several sacrifices, like declining a lunch invitation with friends, and not grabbing a coffee in the afternoon, but to truly not be able to do those “simple” things all the time was unfathomable for me.
Mark: Despite what we thought was a success, we still felt a bit psychologically drained. The largest take away from the experience was that it – outside of work – consumed the majority of our day. We spent all evening chopping and stirring and then thinking about what we’d make the next day. We spent an entire weekend afternoon baking bread. One week of living off the average food stamp budget was an interesting challenge, but after that it’s just a burden. Neither of us could imagine doing it all the time, like the millions of Americans on food stamps do every single day.
Lindsey Bissett is an Associate Production Manager for JUF News Publications. Mark Cahill is an Architectural Designer at Kaufman O'Neil Architecture.