SNAP Challenge: Live on ‘food stamps’ for a week

Community Farmers Markets, Wholesome Wave Georgia invite you to try, Nov. 10-16

Image courtesy Wholesome Wave Georgia

Last January, nearly 2 million Georgia residents received the modern equivalent of food stamps: Supplement Nutrition Assistant Program benefits, distributed via debit cards.

That’s one in five Georgians, twenty percent, who rely on government assistance to put food on the table, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (The national average is fifteen percent.) For families in need, those benefits are modest. In 2012, the average monthly benefit in Georgia was $304 per participating household, or about $136 per household member. Although actual SNAP benefits vary based on need, that’s roughly $1.51 per meal.

Could you feed your family on $1.51 per person per meal? Two Atlanta-based organizations, Community Farmers Markets and Wholesome Wave Georgia, are giving you a week to find out. The Community Farmers Market SNAP Challenge, Nov. 10 to Nov. 16, asks participants to feed themselves on $33.98 for the entire week — that comes out to a generous $1.62 per meal.

Just like real SNAP benefit recipients, participants will not be permitted to use their food allowance to purchase alcohol, tobacco, vitamins, non-food items, hot foods, or items eaten outside the home. But they can use it to buy seeds and food-producing plants, or to purchase food at some farmers markets.

That’s where Wholesome Wave Georgia comes in. The nonprofit organization uses private donations to double the value of SNAP benefits at participating farmers markets. If you are a SNAP recipient, you can use your EBT card (the “EBT” stands for electronic bank transfer, the term the government uses to describe its SNAP debit cards) to buy market tokens at half price at participating Wholesome Wave farmers markets. The tokens can then be used to pay for eligible goods at the market’s booths. So, while $5 on your EBT card will get you exactly $5 worth of food at a supermarket, $5 on your EBT card will get you $10 worth of high-quality, farm-fresh food at a Wholesome Wave farmers market.

SNAP Challenge participants will be able to see how that stretches a family’s food budget by doubling their weekly allowance at the farmers market. They can use $34 person to buy a week’s worth of groceries at the store, or they can spend $68 at a farmers market.

Are you in? Here’s what to do:
– If you’re on Facebook, go to the event’s Facebook page to read all the details and to say you’re “going.” You’re on the honor system to stick to your budget for the week.
– Stop by the Grant Park Farmers Market on Sunday, Nov. 10 for the kickoff. At 11 a.m., Empire State South restaurateur Hugh Acheson will lead a special SNAP Challenge cooking demonstration.
– Throughout the week, check out SNAP Challenge events at CFM’s other markets: The Wednesday Decatur Farmers Market on Nov. 13 will host market tours and a cooking demonstration between 4 and 6 p.m. Gunshow chef Kevin Gillespie will offer a cooking demonstration at the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market on Thursday, Nov. 14. The challenge will end with a 12 p.m. potluck at the Decatur Farmers Market on Saturday, Nov. 16.
– Make a tax-deductible donation to Wholesome Wave Georgia in the amount of $4.85, $33.98, $135.90, or $1,630.80–to approximate SNAP benefits for a day, a week, a month or a year.
– Let everyone know what you’re doing! Blog, post, Tweet, Instagram about your experience.