Monday, August 24, 2015

The Food Stamp Challenge, Again.

Since I last visited this project I haven't tried to improve on it but the subject is usually on my mind on some level.

With that in mind, one of my pastimes on the weekend is listening to Lynn Rosetto Casper's (sp?) show The Splendid Table on National Public Radio.

 Last week the guest on the show was Leanne Brown who has published a cookbook called Good And Cheap: Eat Well For $4 A Day.

You can download a copy here if you are so inclined. It is not a bad thing and there are some good recipes to be had.

Not to niggle, you understand but there are a few things that are different than the project  I worked on here not too long ago.

First of all, it's my considered opinion that $28 per week is less than the USDA says. SNAP a/k/a food stamps allows a single person maximum weekly benefit in the SNAP program of $45.12. I didn't make that up, the government says so here.

So don't cut yourself short. Get your facts right.

Secondly Leanne Brown tells us that this project grew out of a master's thesis in food studies at NYU which morphed into a kickstarter project for a free cookbook for po' folks to a tour on the foodie/frugality talk show circuit and something of a cottage industry. No doubt it is a good idea but certainly not a novel one. I'd never heard of Leanne Brown when I did my recent project here, and I never knew that I was capable of getting a masters' that easily or raising $150 large on kickstarter either.

The zeitgeist of my project came at it from a different angle, but there were things we both ran up against, among them the high cost of protein-folks, it's expensive and there's no way around it-the necessity of acquiring cooking skills, resolving logistic issues, and a better than average knowledge of nutrition.

Some of the things she does not get into in the cookbook are shopping on a budget (take that $45.12 to the market-that is ALL you get), capturing economies of scale by going in with friends on bulk purchases of things like flour, masa, dried beans, rice, barley and wheat, spices and so on, acquiring appropriate technology in cookware, food storage and processing equipment and learning how to prepare and preserve seasonal foods.

One point that she did in my opinion overlook is shopping for value, getting the weekly sale page from the market and snagging loss leaders, particularly when they're cheaper than what you can make yourself. Sunday is marketing day around here, and over at the local super they had pork steaks on sale for .99 per pound-that's as cheap as meat is ever likely to be and a person with a benchtop meat grinder could make a hell of a lot of  good sausage pretty easily instead of paying close to five bucks a pound for it. The thing to be remembered is, when you see a deal, get on it.

Another thing she doesn't mention much is developing your resource and logistics base. Do you have a means of transporting heavy objects like a fifty pound sack of flour? Do you know where you can buy large quantities of cornmeal, beans, rice, sugar and other such things at a serious discount?

Pioneer living, in other words.

All these, however are mere cavils and kvetches. The work is a good thing and the cookbook has a lot of good ideas. I think we both tumbled to the worth of a slow cooked pork shoulder.

The important thing to remember is that poverty comes in many forms and it is not necessarily related to calorie counts, skin color, or where you grew up. Childhood obesity and poverty show disturbing parallels. Anthony Bourdain has much to say about this general subject in a short piece entitled "The Evildoers" in his book The Nasty Bits.

And something that neither of us ever visualized is the amount of fraud and abuse among recipients of SNAP benefits.

It threatens the entire nutrition project, particularly if the next election puts someone like Donald Trump in the White House.