IN THE NEWS: Taking the Food Stamp Challenge
Nov 15, 2012
Could you survive on a food budget of just $31.30 a week?
That translates to $4.50 per day, or $1.50 per meal. And while some might think it near impossible to do, others are determined to give it a try during the Nov. 11 to 17 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge Week.
The Food Stamp Challenge is a national effort to raise awareness of hunger in America and is backed by Jewish organizations, synagogues, religious leaders and community activists. Participants are asked to live on a Food Stamp budget of $31.50 per person for one week. All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including fast food and dining out must be included in the total spending. And participants are asked to avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or at work, including food at receptions or coffee in the office.
"Experiencing what others go through on a daily basis gives us a better appreciation and understanding and helps us to be more compassionate in our work," said Danielle Hartman, Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service president and CEO, who is taking the challenge herself.
"One person in seven in the United States uses food stamps, including nearly a quarter of all American children," Hartman noted. "Hunger is real in our own community despite the perception of affluence here. Our Food Pantry is now helping more than 550 people."
As part of the Challenge, community members are also asked to show support by contributing to the Food Pantry at the Boca Raton JFS in multiples of $31.50, which will help provide biweekly deliveries of non-perishable goods, fruits and vegetables, and challah to those in need.
Kristy Lopez, a graduate student in nutrition at FIU who works with the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County's Jewish Community Relations Council, was preparing for the week by carefully considering food selections.
"I was intrigued by the challenge of having balanced, healthy meals on this minimal budget and want to find out how people can live on $1.50 per meal," she said. "Healthy food really costs more. I will be passing up fresh produce and meat, and heading toward the canned and frozen vegetables, canned beans and tuna. I'll be rinsing the canned goods to eliminate some of the salt, as it's more expensive to buy low-sodium products."
Temple Torah in Boynton Beach is one of the local synagogues participating in the Food Stamp Challenge.
"A lot of people are food insecure. It's a serious crisis," Rabbi Edward Bernstein said. "Temple Torah is concerned about social justice. Many congregations, including our own, support food pantries."
In addition to the more than 20 Temple Torah congregants willing to live for a week on a food stamp budget to highlight hunger in the country, the temple on Saturday evening also screened the film "Food Stamped," which was followed by a discussion. Moreover, the temple will host a potluck dinner at 7 p.m. on Nov. 16, put together entirely on a food stamp budget.
Congregants Kathy Porges and Wilma Turk are co-chairing the dinner, along with Ariella Reback of the temple's Mitzvah Matters social action committee.
"The idea of the potluck dinner came out of the food challenge," Turk said. "It's an interesting way to have Shabbat dinner and at the same time recognize that many people can't afford to eat a nutritious dinner."
Porges echoed those sentiments, adding that it's also an effort to bring awareness of "how people are trying to make ends meet" on a food stamp budget.
"We want people to know what many in our community are going through," Porges said. "There are many in our community who are elderly and who don't have money. Sometimes, they have to choose between food and medicine. So we're trying to show that while it may be very difficult, [eating on a food stamp budget] can be done."
Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service offers help, hope and humanity through a comprehensive range of programs and services which support people of all ages and beliefs. With locations in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, JFS programs and services include food and financial assistance, senior services, counseling and mental health services and many volunteer opportunities. Visit www.rrjfs.org.
At the hub of the Jewish community, the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County serves the Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Highland Beach areas, raising and allocating millions of dollars each year to meet vital human needs locally, in Israel and 70 countries around the world. The JCRC is the public policy voice of the Federation. Visit www.jewishboca.org.