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 www.jasonholleman.com.

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.



Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Nutritionists often advise us to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and to limit our intake of sweets and salts as much as possible. But is this possible on $21/week?

Here are typical costs to provide healthy lunches*:

Kid's Meal
1/2 peanut butter sandwich
3/4 cup carrots
1/2 orange
hard-boiled egg
1 cup milk
Total Cost: $1.19

Adult Meal
1/2 turkey sandwich
2 cups spinach salad (w/ dressing)
Total Cost: $2.40

With the current food stamp average in the United States of $21 per person, this is essentially $3/day and $1/meal. As you see, one dollar hardly provides a full healthy meal for children or adults.

Jesus was often prompted by compassion to act on behalf of those who were suffering loss, disease and hunger. It seems inevitable that those who follow Jesus must also show compassion in all of their decisions and actions . . . The followers of Jesus cannot ignore the needy of the world, and neither can we look away from the needs of the world. If our lives are modeled after the one we claim to follow, we will, as Jesus did, look with compassion upon all who cross our paths. Looking with compassion requires the further step of seeking to alleviate the pain that prompted our compassion.
~ Bishop Rueben P. Job, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God

So who are we called to be as followers of Jesus when so many families in our nation and around the world cannot afford even one healthy meal?

*Information from ELCA Food Stamp Challenge

Reflection: Ciona Rouse

It's been one full week of the Food Stamp Challenge. I've noticed that I think about food a lot more since the challenge started. I suppose I thought about food a lot before the challenge, actually, but now I'm trying my best to ignore Chick-fil-A when I drive by it instead of ordering a #5 with Cherry Coke, no ice. And I ignored the chocolate chip cookie dough that called to me in Harris Teeter on my way to get eggs. I even ignored the Fuji apples, which are my favorite kind, but it made no sense to spend $2.49/lb. when a bundle of oranges were so cheap. In trying to ignore these foods, I thought about food more and more.

I do not complain, though. I have eaten well this week. Most meals have not been as exciting as the days when I might create a shopping list solely based on one amazing Rachel Ray recipe. I've eaten, though, and I've eaten pretty well.

I had a friend buy a meal for me, and I was very grateful for our dinner together. I traveled for work, too, and my colleague treated me to a feast at a Moroccan restaurant. She did not know about the challenge when she offered. I had not eaten since breakfast that morning, so when I ate that meal, I had felt the pain of hunger for hours. It was nice to receive a filling free meal.

So far, I'm reminded of the joy of community. We are not islands. My $21 does not go very far. But when Lanecia and I purchase food together, $42 seems a bit more filling. Gifts from friends are sheer blessings. So how can I be in community better with my neighbors who wonder where they will get their next meal? What gift can I give that might be someone's sheer blessing without my even knowing it?