Quick Bites

Celebrate Food Day with a screening of Food Stamped at the Haven!

October 16, 2013

by: Emily Sydnor
by Lynda Fanning

Food Stamped is the first of the UVA Food Collaborative’s 2013-2014 film series; it is co-sponsored with Market Central, the non-profit serving the City Market and its vendors and customers, and with Whole Foods, who will serve a meal commensurate with the roughly $1.50 per meal dictated by current “food stamp” benefits. Prepare to be “satisfied” rather than “full.” We are also partnering with The Haven.

Although the film is from 2011, it can hardly be more timely given our political landscape of cuts and more cuts: by the US House: a proposed 39 billion over 10 years in SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (what used to be called “food stamps”). Funding this program, the main title in the $mega-billion Farm Bill, comes at an intersection between increasing poverty levels, economic woes, and the related obesity epidemic. Add to this how very effective SNAP benefits are for the overall economy.

While politics is polarized on this issue some voters are misinformed about the program, thinking of it as another giveaway to folks who choose a handout over getting a job. In fact 83% of households on SNAP contain children, the elderly or the disabled, where working may be impossible. Temporary loss of a job leads to applying for SNAP as a godsend, an average of only 10 months. Many recipients are working, and the majority are not on welfare.

The good news: benefits have been shown to lower risk of overweight and obesity (even without restricting junk foods and sodas), to increased food quality, to a (cost-saving) increase in health. When there is a temporary boost in benefit amounts (happened in 2011), all these parameters improved even more. While 7 in 10 voters polled are against cutting SNAP benefits, they seem not to affect the stance of many elected officials.

Meanwhile Market Central has championed the cause of making the healthiest possible fresh, locally-grown foods available to SNAP recipients at the City Market via providing the machine and manpower to accept EBT cards Electronic Balance Transfer—like a debit card) in exchange for tokens to spend at the market. Even better, Market Central through a Wholesome Wave grant is able to give $2 in tokens for each $1.00 used from the EBT card balance, up to $10.00. In effect a recipient is “given” $10.00 extra for shopping at the produce-laden Market instead of in conventional stores.

One of the main points in the film is whether a person can eat healthy on this “diet” or restricted $ amount. While the program is designed to be “supplemental” rather than the total food budget, in many cases the supplement may be all there is to work with. So it’s important to make excellent choices for nutrient richness, to stick with mostly “whole” foods, to avoid processed items that contribute a surplus of calories along with an addictive salt/sugar buzz, and little else. Unfortunately, sodas and junk food in stores are at this time still allowed, so recipients need to be educated (SNAP ED Program, also on the cutting block) about shopping and about cooking (if, that is, they have a kitchen).

Mark your calendar now for Oct. 24, 6:30 at the Haven, corner of First and Market.

We will be posting tips on adhering to $1.50/person/meal for the prior week, also known as the Food Stamp Challenge or SNAP Challenge. You are invited to join the many legislators and other leaders who have written about their experiences, more recently the CEO of Panera and the Mayor of Newark Cory Booker, and then to share what you learned and what you gained from the experience.

 

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