Food Stamp Challenge, Day 5: Counting Down



Day 5, Sunday, Nov. 18, 10:30pm

 I’ve already written about the particularity of this experience, living on $31.50 for a single week. It is just not comparable to being on a limited food budget week after endless week. As I’ve said, the one-week trial is limiting in terms of buying too much of one thing and not enough of something else.  But in every way that matters, it’s a walk in the park compared to struggling with food scarcity with no end in sight. In addition, as long as I see my growing teenager eating to his heart’s--and stomach’s—content, I’m good. I notice that I am watching warily as my husband prepares their meals, wanting to intervene and suggest alternatives. But for the most part I’ve managed to hold my tongue and stay focused on my own meals.

Tonight I had four pots going: lentils, onions, rice, mustard greens. Isaiah and Daniel ate tuna fish sandwiches. I thought I saw Isaiah looking longingly at my version of the middle-eastern mujadera (lentils with caramelized onions and rice) so I offered him some.

All in all, I probably ate more healthily than they did today. I had my usual oatmeal for breakfast while they ate French toast dripping with real maple syrup. I’m starting to shed pounds.

What I’m finding is when your budget is limited, you have to make every penny and calorie count. Whole grains, vegetables, and legumes are the way to go. I didn’t intend to eat vegan, but the cheese, yogurt and milk I bought are so inferior to what I’m used to that I may not even finish them by the end of the seven days. And I haven’t touched the vanilla wafers since the first night. 

I’m definitely counting down. Two days to go. I have about $.65 left. What will I splurge on tomorrow?


Please click to donate to the JFS Food Assistance program. Thank you very much.







Jonathan Garfinkle

Executive Director, Jewish Family Service

November 18, 2012             2:15 pm


I awakened this morning, for the first time really starting to feel the effects of this bizarre, unbalanced, and rather meager diet.  Nothing horrible, but a bit lethargic and definitely somewhat cranky and out of sorts.  But I forced myself out of bed, showered and  dressed, and then “enjoyed” my now usual breakfast of cheap, generic coffee, oatmeal, and a couple of bruised, reduced price fruits from the Stop & Shop discounted produce section.

By the time I arrived at JFS for our long-planned, long-anticipated special morning program for children and their parents with the theme of “Feeding the Hungry”, a collaboration of JFS, PJ Library and Federation, I was feeling much better, more “myself”, and really looking forward to what would follow.

Well, suffice it to say, at the conclusion of the program I felt like a million bucks.  It was a fabulous event – fun, creative, activity-packed, and meaningful.  “Feeding the Hungry” was JFS’ and PJ’s part in participating in the Global Day of Jewish Learning, but it was also entirely consistent with the message, theme, and awareness-raising goals of the Food Stamp Challenge.  What I felt so great about was not just that we had 60 people come to JFS on a Sunday morning, not just that the kids so obviously enjoyed the hilarious staged reading of the story, “Bone Button Borscht”, not just that the kids had so much fun and got so engaged in making Thanksgiving cards for our Food Pantry families and in decorating their own “Lend a Hand, Give a Can” bags for collecting donated food, and not just that all of these coordinated activities seemed to go off exactly according to plan (thanks to Saskia Moss from PJ/JCC and team.)

What truly felt great was looking into the faces of all these children who represent the future of our community, and knowing that they are learning early in life the important lessons of tzedakah, of compassion, of our obligation as Jews to help those less fortunate than we are, and of understanding that even now, as children, they can be part of the solution to the scourges of poverty and hunger that run rampant in our own community.   

And at the end of the program, we all went outside and marched together to the JFS Pantry with their decorated bags filled with the nonperishable foods that they had collected and brought with them from home, and they got the opportunity at the Pantry to sort the items according to food category that they knew would then go to families that truly need them.

Isn’t that what the Food Stamp Challenge is all about?

Please click to donate to the JFS Food Assistance program. Thank you very much.


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