Truth or Dare

23 Jan
Visa, Mastercard, American Express...or EBT?

Visa, Mastercard, American Express…or EBT?

I have now completed the first full week of my Food Security Challenge, and the challenges it is bringing are beginning to come into focus.

And they are not just nutritional.

I knew this was a touchy area before beginning the challenge, and that was part of the point. To get the conversation going on this vital area of federal support that could bring another $80 million into the community to be spent locally, an investment that would benefit the entire community, not just those on food stamps.

There has been quite a lot of reaction to the challenge from all sides of the political and personal spectrum. My own mother warned me that I could be seen as a ‘poser,’ spending a limited amount of time living in a situation that millions can’t walk away from at the end of a single month.

And you have to listen to your mother, right?

So I wanted to take the opportunity to spell out again that the reason for the challenge is to bring to attention a difficult situation that many face. It is not to make light of their situation, but to bring light to bear on it. It is not a lark, it is serious business. And if I want to try and have fun doing it and crack a few bad jokes, well that is just me, and no one should take it personally.

Food distributions, the lifesaver.

Food distributions, the lifesaver.

So, explanations over. The simple facts of my current situation are that I have spent $67.80 of my allotted $200 after the first week of my month. (See below for a breakdown) Not wildly over the $50 per week I would spend if I was dividing my total available food stamp money into four. Also  I have purchased some things like cereal and cooking oil, which will last me more than a week. I also have a good 8 meals still frozen. On the negative side I have to remember that I was on the challenge for three days before I could spend any food stamps, so really that figure represents four days of purchasing, not seven.

One thing is already crystal clear – that I would have no chance of remaining healthy and well nourished for the whole period without the additional help I have accessed from the Foodbank and our partners in the community. I received groceries of the value of $80 from the first distribution and produce worth $25 from the Mobile Farmers Market I attended.

The production line is cranking out the meals, but mass-produced is never as yummy.

The production line is cranking out the meals, but mass-produced is never as yummy.

I am eating well, and eating healthily. Yet my diet is boring. I have been busy and have not had as much time to devote to cooking as I would like. Also that would require more money. I would need extra ingredients and my money would run out pretty quickly. When the Foodbank first started devoting a lot of attention to teaching ‘food literacy’ skills (cooking, shopping, budgeting) people felt that it was a nice addition to our activities of providing and distributing food, but that they were not core to what we did. Now it is clear that these basic skills are what can help people use the food we provide to be truly healthy. You don’t need to be given a recipe and to follow it slavishly, but to use basic techniques which allow you to produce a number of variants of the same basic ingredient.

So I better start practicing what I preach and make my food life a little more ‘literate’ than it’s been the last few days.

And now I see that 18 month old Mia has eaten the last of my pretzels. How could she…

Week One Food Stamp Purchases
Tomatoes 3.49
2 x Hothouse Cucumbers 3.38
Oat and peanut bars 2.29
2 x AkMak Crackers 3.38
2 x Rice Cakes 2.98
Almond and Seed Bars 3.99
Salsa 2.99
6 x bananas 1.14
2 x brown rice 2.40
Rice vinegar 1.20
3 x Avocado 2.97
Poblamo peppers .79
Cilantro .49
Parsley .49
Flax Plus Cereal 2.99
Pumpkin Granola 2.99
Tortilla chips 2.69
2 x black beans 1.78
Fire roasted peppers 1.99
Olives 2.29
Corn .89
Chocolate cat cookies 2.99
Eggplant hummus 1.99
2 x garbanzo beans 1.78
Olive oil 4.99
Licorice allsorts 2.29
Multigrain pretzels 1.39
Cucumber Hothouse 1.69
Onions .79
Tomatoes 2.29
 TOTAL  67.80
 AMOUNT OF $200 remaining 132.20

My exciting diet


B – Cereal

L – salad

D – soup


B – x

L – Chicken soup

D – Chili and salad


B – Eggs

L – Chili

D – Fish and rice


B – Cereal

L –Tomato and Bean Salad

D – Chili and salad


B – Cereal

L – Eggplant hummus

D – chili and green salad

8 Responses to “Truth or Dare”

  1. eatinginSB January 23, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    Thanks for clarification about Tri-Counties on earlier post. Hey…remember that the SB Axxess card has coupon for Tri Counties…I think they also come in the mailer. I did not know that about the 99 cent store. I have to ask you think about the access of affordable produce. I hear where you are coming from since your passion and job is the food bank, however since this is supposed to be a helpful and useful dialogue with the community I aim to be the voice from someone who really is living this lifestyle full time right now. To access produce at many of the foodbanks you have to be referred to, and most all you have to qualify for. The limit I think is $2700 for a family of four. After rent, gas, after school care, etc…there is little for food. If they don’t qualify for help, then I am sure glad that there is a place to buy cheaper produce. I am almost at the limit..make too much for SNAP, but just qualify for pantries. I am expected to get slight raises over the next year and will prob just go over the limit. W/out a places for cheap produce we really would not eat much at all. As it is we eat one or two servings a day…no way near the recommended amount. ….. One a totally different note I will have to find the link for you, but there is a trial program in some states for people using food stamps. For every fresh produce item you buy you will receive a percentage credit back as an incentive to eat healthier. Just be creative in cooking and you will do fine for the rest of your month. Some of the best ideas come out of necessity. P.S. I don’t see you as a poser, but really trying to identify. You won’t be able to completely..for example you don’t feel the sting of embarrassment or being uncomfortable using the EBT option…especially in some stores where they say “Oh, your using EBT!” loudly. But I respect you for take this bold step.

  2. eatinginSB January 23, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    Don’t forget that Farmers market takes EBT. Find the stand with the ATM/EBT sign. Go at the close of the market when sellers make deals.

    • Erik Talkin January 26, 2013 at 5:00 am #

      Yes, I will be checking out the farmers market next weekend

  3. heyppraisal January 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    Since I truly am following your posts closely, where did you get the fish for your dinner on Sunday? It was not in your purchase list. I’m curious about the type and quality you can purchase on the program.

    • Erik Talkin January 24, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

      I’m glad that people are keeping a keen eye on me!

      I bought some frozen fish and some canned fish after I published my first list of items purchased. You will see it represented in the next list.

  4. ddsprncs January 25, 2013 at 4:30 am #

    I have a comment on the hours of food banks. I am in the “working poor” class making 10/hr with a rent of 1060/month 8 to 5 M-F. I am a single mom and do not qualify for food stamps nor am I available the hours the food bank is open. (I work in a different city, so I can not go during my lunch break) The reason I am posting the situation here is that I am thinking someone in your position may be able to address this catch 22 with the people you know and the reach you have. Thank you!

    • eatinginSB January 25, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

      I agree with above. Hours are not for working poor. Boys and Girls club on the 2nd Sat or the month is avail. i lucky get off earlier enough to make a 4:30 close. It would be nice to have a mobile famer’s market in eve or Sat.

    • Erik Talkin January 26, 2013 at 5:12 am #

      Great points and a great opportunity for me to point out that a food bank is an organization that distributes food to many other nonprofit agencies. I suspect you are referring to a food ‘pantry’ which distributes to members of the community directly. Fussiness about word usage aside, hours are always a big issue. Nonprofit agencies want to put on programs at time that are convenient to them (normal working hours) and the recipients of their services want to access them at times convenient to them (out of normal working hours). There is a gradual movement that we are trying to speed up to provide services at more convenient times. Our healthy school pantries happen from 3-6 giving a better window of time for busy families to attend. There are some pantries open on weekends. (like Grace Lutheran in SB). You can check our website for a list of pantires in your area if you are in SB County. If not, go to the food bank locator on the feeding america website ( and you can call up your local foodbank or check their website for pantry locations and times.

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