Food Stamp Challenge

I am working on my Masters in Public Health Nursing at San Francisco State University. I was given an assignment in my Community Nursing class to find resources for vulnerable populations, an opportunity to explore the concepts of vulnerability, homelessness, hunger, stress and health, poverty, literacy and access to services; concepts recognized as social determinants of health. Examples of other activities students are doing include volunteering at a soup kitchen, taking classes in stress reduction and literacy, and following the lengthy process of signing up for Healthy San Francisco, a city run health insurance program for people with low incomes. I decided to take a different approach to this assignment. I live in West Oakland, a neighborhood famous for it’s crime, pollution, and having 53 liquor stores, and not one grocery store. Many of my neighbors receive financial assistance, including food stamps. I wanted to experience life in West Oakland on food stamps, $4.00 a day (average for California), experience having to buy all my groceries from the few options available to me. I also have a physical disability and walk with a cane. So to add to the challenge, I am limiting myself to purchasing food only from places I can walk to, with a cane. Many people do not drive a fancy little Prius as I do and don’t have the resources to clip coupons and drive all over town for sales. So for 1 week, I am living off of $4.00 a day for all food and drink and only purchasing my groceries in West Oakland, at stores that are walking distance for a person with disabilities. This blog is a way for me to record the experience and share the realities of hunger in America with others.


Comments on: "Food Stamp Challenge" (3)

  1. Jessica Williams said:

    I actually had to experience something just like this. Last year I was living in Watts with my two children, one 8 and the other 2. I had a roommate with a 10 year old. She waas cut off of public assisatnce but I was receiving public assistance. We had no car so when had to rely on public transportation and walking to get around. It is very difficult to take the bus with children, a stroller, and to try to carry things so we mostly walked. The stores within walking distance sold food almost $2.00 higher than a grocery store would, the food would sometimes be expired or damaged and the customer service was horrible. The mom and pop owners were rude and unappreciative of our business. They knew the closest store was too far or too dangerous to get to and you had to shop there. Most people in the neighborhood will just accept this. I refused to feed my kids overpriced,stale bread and expired milk. I was definitely not going to give them a diet of processed meat and high sodium noodles and never would I take them to the burger stand or fish market that accepted EBT. If the health inspector saw these places, how the store and prepare food and how unsanitary the people were they would be shut down immediately. I had to make my food stamps last, all my cash went to bills so I would wait till the two older kids were at school and put the little one in the stroller and walk three major streets and about 5 or 6 blocks to the nearest real grocery store. It literally took me 4 or 5 days to do “groceries”. One day I would get milk and other dairies. The next time I would get potatoes, rice, beans and pasta. Then can goods and cereal. I would walk to the other side of town to the farmers market for produce. It took so many trips because I would put as much as I can in and on the stroller. It was very exhausting, I would drop things, it would be hard getting up and down curbs. You would be surprised to see how many sidewalks don’t have ramps. Not to mention people riding there bike on the sidewalk and acting as if they have the right of way, the homies hanging on the sidewalk and young teens with no manners or respect to move to the side or at least stop cursing around the baby. Oh and don’t forget the crackhead that sees you struggling with a baby and groceries and still has the audacity to ask if you have any spare change. So not cool! I would make potatoes in so many different ways. Rice and beans too. They were usually the cheapest things at the store and came in big enough quantities to last for a while and they didn’t go bad. They were the heaviest to carry though. I had to real creative with meals and I thank God the kids never complained, they were and are happy and healthy. If you want to ask me anything about my experiences here pleas feel free to . I hope this helps you. Jessica W

    • 4bucksaday said:

      jessica- i really appreciate your comment. i can’t begin to imagine how difficult that must have been- especially with kids. i hope you live closer to a grocery store now!

  2. This is a great idea. I’m really looking forward to your posts.

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