Monday, June 10, 2013

SNAP Challenge 2013: Food Stamp Specialist Ken M. Prepares for 5 Days, 6 Dollars

It was a warm Saturday afternoon in June. I put on my iPhone earbuds, cranked up the music, and headed to the Incline. I was on a journey to buy 30 dollars worth of food that had to last me the entire work week. And according to the challenge rules, no other food allowed: nothing from the cupboard, no sneaking from the fridge at work, and no one buying me anything. Could I hack it for five days? People on food stamps do this for months.

Armed with a spreadsheet and pen I walked along Grandview Avenue dogging tourist questions and counting skyscrapers. The ride down the Mount was great - I paid 3.50 for the ride and two transfers.  I crossed the street to the bus stop and carefully eyed up my fellow travelers.  All seemed well.

I walked along Carson St. looking at the shops and people spending more money on lunch than I could for the whole week.  Inside the store, I pulled out my spreadsheet and iPhone calculator.  It could not have gone better: I was getting my items and saving .29 cents here and there.  I loaded up my cart and headed for checkout.

I took my items out of the cart and the cashier put them back in.  I wheeled my cart to the table and started to pack my bag. This stuff ain’t fitting in my bag.  I turned to the cashier for help.  He was already inpatient with me because I asked for my quarter back that was stuck in the cart.  I interrupted the line anyway.  “I need a bag...”  “There over on the shelf “ he said.  I went to the shelf and see the bags aren't free - the only one that would work costs $1.25.

I carefully packed the bag I brought.  It was so heavy I thought for sure the straps were going to break.  I carried the bag in one hand and two loaves of bread in the other.  I made it about a half a block and had to stop.  I made it another 30 feet and had to stop.  I quickly became entertainment for the people eating lunch outside.  I gave them the stink eye.

I made it to the first bus stop and that was it.  My stuff was falling out on the sidewalk.  People started to inch away from me.  I stepped on any ants that got too close to my food.

Then a thought crossed my mind: It's over 80 degrees out and the bus may be a long time coming. What if everything spoils?! I'd be ruined. No milk, chicken, or eggs for the rest of the week. I'd be living on carbs and canned goods and even less calories. I move the bag into the shade. See part 2.

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