For one week, staff members of the Washington State Potato Commission (WSPC) are joining together to take the "Food Stamp Challenge." Six staff members and one staff members' family will participate in the challenge. Each participant is pledging to use the average weekly benefit available to Washington state residents living on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as their total budget for groceries for seven days. A key ingredient for each of their menus will be the incorporation of potato products.
"Although we realize that living on a SNAP benefit budget for just one week cannot come close to the true experience that families face when having to rely on the program week after week and month after month, we felt the challenge would provide us with a better understanding of what those families go through," said Chris Voigt, WSPC Executive Director. "We also wanted to do it with potatoes having an important place in many of the meals we will eat. The purpose of this is to highlight the affordability and nutritional value potatoes can provide to the millions of people who struggle to find adequate sources of food."
Each participant will build their own menu for the week while spending only $29.56 on their food for individuals and $56.45 for the household. The challenge will take place beginning Saturday, April 6 and conclude Friday, April 12. During the week participants will also avoid accepting free food from friends, family or while at other events where food may be served. The participants will be documenting their experiences on the WSPC's Facebook page www.facebook.com/WashingtonPotatoes and their organization's blog http://potatoes.com/blog. A nutritionist will also be reviewing their menus to see how healthy they were able to make their food selections for the week.
"The idea for the staff to take the challenge came following the viewing of a documentary film in which a couple tries to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet on a food stamp budget," said Voigt, who will be participating with his whole family during the week. "However, the documentary seemed a little unrealistic since the couple only shopped at expensive grocery stores."
Food stamps help millions of low-income people purchase needed food each month. Eligibility is based on income and assets depending on household size. According to USDA data, in Washington state over 1.5 million residents and households receive SNAP Benefits. The average monthly benefit for a Washington resident in 2012 was $126.69 a month for individuals and $241.96 per household.