News / Economy

    Family Tastes Life on Food Assistance

    A record number of Americans - 47 million people, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture - rely on government assistance to keep from going hungry.

    The US government provides a small stipend for food, but warding off hunger can be challenging on such a tight budget.

    Laura Kahn recently got a taste of what it's like to live on food assistance, after volunteering to take the Hunger Challenge.

    Kahn, who loves to cook, prepared meals for herself and her husband for about $4 each per day. That’s the average government food aid benefit. It’s less than half of what the typical American couple spends daily on food.

    And that’s the point of the Hunger Challenge, says Charles Meng, executive director of the Arlington Food Assistance Center, a nearby food bank.

    “All of a sudden you can understand those tradeoffs that our families make on a daily basis,” Meng says.

    Tradeoffs like giving up most fresh fruits and vegetables for canned.

    "A fresh apple might be five cents or 10 cents more expensive than the applesauce that's already canned," Kahn says, "which doesn't sound like a lot, but when you're on $4.03 a day, three cents here, 10 cents here, it all adds up."
       
    Even brand-name canned foods had to go and so did the flavors she liked.

    “[There is a] tremendous flavor difference," Kahn says. "You almost have to add some sort of spice to the store-brand tomatoes in order to make them taste the same.”

    Most red meat had to go, too, so their protein often came from beans.

    “I’ve got black beans, red beans," Kahn says, "got our pinto beans, got our lentils.”

    After conducting a great deal of research to keep her recipes on budget, she drew up detailed charts listing the per-serving cost of every ingredient.

    “It was a lot of work," Kahn says. "I enjoy it because I enjoy numbers, but your average person is probably not going to do this.”

    But it helped her come up with meals which were healthy, tasty, filling and cheap. One recent dinner, a potato-zucchini-egg frittata, cost about a dollar per serving.

    “Yeah, it’s really good,” says Kahn's husband, Aaron, who adds they've not sacrificed on taste. But, "I’ve also seen all the work that Laura put into it. And I can’t believe the amount of effort it takes to eat on such a tight budget.”

    And Laura Kahn says it was an eye-opening experience for her, too.

    “I’ve never had to think about where my next meal comes from and I think that it can be a tremendous amount of stress on people," she says. "And I think I realize that more by having lived it.”

    After a week of low-budget cooking, Kahn ended the challenge with greater respect for those who have to live on government food assistance, people who face the hunger challenge all year round.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.9092
    JPY
    USD
    101.65
    GBP
    USD
    0.7583
    CAD
    USD
    1.3047
    INR
    USD
    67.954

    Rates may not be current.