Sunday, March 23, 2008

Food Stamp Challenge: Who is My Neighbor?

Welcome to the Belmont UMC Food Stamp Challenge blog! This is a place for you to learn about the Food Stamp Challenge, read stories of participants, and share your thoughts about the experience.

So, what is the Food Stamp Challenge?

Well, we are blessed to live in a country with enough food for all. The Food Stamp Challenge seeks to help us be aware of the struggles for food that some of our neighbors have, even in the midst of our world’s bounty.

Each month about 25 million people in the United States participate in the nation’s Food Stamp Program. On average, the participants receive $21 per week ($1 per meal) for each person in their household to eat. As a result, millions of people in our nation—some who are our neighbors right here in Nashville—find it difficult to eat enough food each day and nearly impossible to add healthy choices into their diets.

Belmont’s Good Neighbors ministry invites you to stand in solidarity with our hungry neighbors through the Belmont Food Stamp Challenge. You can join the challenge at any time during Lent.

How You Can Participate:

1. Prayer: Please remember those who are hungry in your daily prayers.
2. $21 Food Stamp Challenge: Live for at least one week of Lent ( or the entire Lenten season Feb. 6- March 23) on the national average Food Stamp allotment of $21 per person in your household per week.
3. WNAB: Fellowship with other Belmonters on Wednesday nights and choose to eat the $1 meal option instead of the regular meal (write $1 next to your reservation, please). Also plan to attend special WNAB sessions on the Food Stamp Challenge and homelessness and poverty in Nashville Feb. 13, Feb. 27 and March 5.
4. Offering: Save the money that you would have spent for your family each week you participate, and offer it as an Easter gift to a feeding program of choice (a list of a few programs are available on the sidebar). Even if you are not doing the $21/week challenge, you can save a designated amount each week of Lent so that you can donate to a program of choice.

We hope you'll visit the blog often and leave comments about your experience!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Reflection: Ciona Rouse

Holy Week is approaching. With the whirlwind of my travel schedule, I almost feel like Ash Wednesday was just a few days ago. How on earth can it be that we're already approaching Palm Sunday and that beautiful entry into Jerusalem?

Then my taste buds remind me that it's been forever since I've eaten at Jackson's or Fido. I haven't had a girls' night at Rumours or been able to invite my friends over for a fun, festive meal that we make at home. They remind me that it has been many long weeks of beans, rice, spaghetti, potatoes and PB&J . . . My taste buds are ready for the Resurrection!

When I made French fries the other day, my roommate Amanda was astounded. She thought fries came from Wendy's or from a frozen bag named OreIda. She was amazed when I literally sliced a potato, seasoned the strips and heated oil to make real French fries. And they were delicious! Fresh, tasty and seasoned to my liking.

We are so far removed from our food the more money we spend. Someone else makes it for us or packages it for us. It takes more time (and we're certainly tired of our kitchen and dishes right now), but there's something beautiful about having to make your own meal.

What isn't beautiful, however, is that when we live on such little money, we are not able to always make healthy meals. The impoverished in our country and around the world can't always appreciate the beauty of the basics when they are not eating healthy enough for survival.

I believe even more in the beauty of community gardens after this experience. When I grew tomatoes last year, I made pizza and spaghetti sauces from scratch. It was tasty, and it felt good to use fresh basil and tomatoes from my potted garden. My salads were delicious! I chose healthier ways to eat with my tiny garden. My pot was easily accessible, and my roommate at the time said, "Ciona, aren't you afraid someone's going to come and steal your tomatoes?" I hope that someone who needs it will "steal" them . . .

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Reflection: Mollie Henry

Closing in on week #5! It's a relief to have a light at the end of the tunnel. Sobering to know others do not. To date our best lessons have been:

a. Community is a lifeline, and God means for us to live in community.
b. Food is a blessing and world of complex, beautiful human creations.
c. After trying to eat nutritiously on $1/meal for almost 5 weeks, I can totally understand someone wanting to blow the budget on Doritos. I will judge less.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reflection: Ciona Rouse

We keep trying to live on only $21/week. Lanecia and I, however, decided that we would not refuse offers from people who give us food (though we would not ask). People who live on food stamps may receive free food from friends at times, so we decided to live into that, in moderation of course, if anyone offered.

Well, the offers keep coming. Not because we've told people that we were accepting food but simply because people want to make sure we have plenty to eat during this time. It's amazing, really, how our friends and family won't let us eat poorly. We were gifted with fresh farm eggs from a friend who had extra eggs from the farm co-op at church. We have been given frozen vegetables from one of our friend's parents. Our mother fed us while we were here and insists on gifting us with food. It's quite humbling really. And, while we really try to live within just the $21, we are blessed by the gifts.

I'm reminded of being in Eldorado Park, a community in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2005. I stayed with a family who had enough to survive but not much more. But when a child from next door came to the house and said that her family had no more bread and could not afford any bread, Auntie Connie gave her the bread they had left without hesitation. I'm reminded of the many times we've been with our homeless neighbors in Nashville and seen them share with one another and with us. I'm reminded of the early believers in the book of Acts who lived together in community and "no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common . . . There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold" (Acts. 4:32-34). This was not a decree of the government at the time; these were people of faith imagining a better way to live with each other.

There is enough food in the world for everyone to be fed well, but still so many go hungry. Could the church imagine another way?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reflection: Mollie & David Henry

We are just about to wrap up week #3. It's getting harder. The best part is that we are wasting almost nothing. Our fridge and pantry are more empty than full, and we like that. Nothing is going bad. We are discovering new dishes - for example, stir-fried broccoli. We had brown rice, tofu, and stir-fried broccoli with soy sauce and a 1/4 piece of pita bread last night. It was delicious! The total cost per person was about 80 cents.

The worst part is not eating out - ever. That's what's wearing me down the most. I am spending so much more time in the kitchen. No eating out ever means all three meals for five people come from our little kitchen - the making of and the cleaning up. I'm getting kind of sick of that place. I also miss my Coca Cola.

Friday, February 15, 2008

WNAB: The Hollemans

Wednesday, Feb. 13, Belmont member Margaret Holleman spoke to us about how she and her husband--Metro Councilman Jason Holleman--took the food stamp challenge last fall and lived on $21 each for a week. She shared several lessons learned during their week:

-The Hollemans did not do business lunches or special receptions during their week, recognizing that people who get food stamps are in an income bracket that typically does not afford them the luxury of free big meals as a result of business or social gatherings.

-The Kroger in Bordeaux has the most utilization of food stamps in the Nashville area

-The only seasonings they used on their foods that week were salt and ketchup--something anyone could just get from a local fast food restaurant.

-Their fruit and vegetable intake was slim. Apples and carrots were the most expensive of their grocery purchases. Margaret said she sliced the carrots into tiny pieces so that they would last longer.

-Jason carried a pocket calculator as they shopped so that he could add as they shopped to be sure they don't go over the alloted amount.

-Margaret found that they were very hungry for the first two days but adjusted as the week progressed.

-Margaret really missed drinking coffee and may have "cheated" once or twice for a cup of joe.

-They purchased potatoes on a great sale, but the potatoes began molding in just a few days. Sales may not necessarily be a great deal for people on food stamps.

Holleman Family Shopping List
$42 for two adults

Rice, 2 lbs.
Potatoes, 10 lbs.
Dried red beans, 1 lb.
Diced tomatoes, 2 cans
Tuna fish (chunk light), 4 cans
Carrots, w/ tops, 1 lb.
Apples, red delicious, 2 lbs.
Milk, 2%, 1 gallon
Cheese, sharp cheddar, 1 lb.
Eggs, medium, 1 doz.
Spinach, leaf, frozen, 1 lb.
Chicken, 1 whole, 3 lbs.
Ground beef, lean, 1 lb. (Manager’s Special!)
Spaghetti, 1 lb.
Macaroni, 1 lb.
Spaghetti sauce, one can
Onion, one
Peanut butter, 1 jar
Wheat bread, 1 loaf
Honey, 1 jar
Oatmeal, 1 lb size
Ramen noodles, 2 packages

Holleman Dinner Options
Red beans and rice
Ingredients used: some of dried beans, some of the rice, 1 can tomatoes

Ingredients used: spaghetti, sauce

Roast chicken and potatoes
Ingredients used: Chicken, onion, potatoes

Macaroni and cheese
Ingredients used: macaroni, cheese, milk, eggs

Crustless quiche
Ingredients used: Onion, spinach, cheese, milk, eggs

Ingredients used: potatoes, onion

Shepherd’s pie
Ingredients used: ground beef, dried beans, potatoes, cheese, 1 can tomatoes, spinach

Lunches & Breakfasts
They each had oatmeal (made with combination of milk and water) almost every day, ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches, cut up carrots and apples, tuna, and leftovers.

At the end of the week, the Hollemans had the following items leftover:
- some spaghetti and macaroni
- potatoes
- rice
- honey
- peanut butter
- eggs
- Ramen, both packages

*Photograph courtesy of

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Posting to the Blog

Anyone can post comments to the blog now; you do not have to be a user of Google or Blogger. Sorry for the inconvenience earlier.