Food Stamped screening this Thursday

Food stamp printing (above) and first food stamp (below) issued in Washington, D.C., April 20, 1939. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs.

Food Stamped explores the question of whether it’s possible to eat healthfully on government food stamps. Filmmaker Yoav Potash and his nutrition educator wife, Shira, document their efforts to make healthy choices at the market while staying within a dollar-a-meal budget.

Join the Food Literacy Project on Thursday, March 22 at 7:30 in Emerson Hall 101 in Harvard Yard for a screening of the film and a Q+A with co-director Yoav Potash.

See the trailer at www.FoodStamped.com. Open to the community!

What’s the Issue?

1 in 7 Americans qualify for food stamps. A record 44.7 million Americans participated in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) in 2011. That’s an increase of 16.5 million participants since 2008.

Food assistance programs like SNAP, National School Lunch Program account for about 75% of farm bill spending.  SNAP funding accounts for 68% of total government spending on nutrition, yet many cannot afford nutritious foods on a SNAP shopping budget.

Why not? The maximum monthly SNAP benefits that an individual can receive is $200.00; the maximum monthly benefits that a family of four can receive is $668.00. Assuming 3 meals a day for a month, the $200.00 monthly allotment shakes out to a little over $2 per meal.

That’s a very challenging food cost to meet. Although the USDA releases a “Thrifty Meal Plan” report with recommendations for eating nutritiously, it’s still a struggle to find food that is healthy and may be prepared with minimal labor. Mark Bittman’s editorial “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” is a good exploration of some of the challenges SNAP recipients (and all citizens) encounter when striving to eat heathfully.

Some organizations are working today to make nutritious food more affordable, more available, and less labor intensive. Right here at the Harvard School of Public Health, student Cindy Leung is working to study health outcomes of SNAP participation. The Harvard and Allston Farmers’ Markets, along with over 80 other markets in Massachusetts, accept WIC/SNAP; many of these markets (including the Harvard/Allston markets) participate in Bounty Bucks or other doubling programs that discount produce for SNAP users. Wholesome Wave offers a vegetable prescription program, so that doctors can prescribe vegetables to those at risk.

Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the last thirty years and food stamp participation is at record highs; now, more than ever, we have got to make the healthy option the affordable, convenient option. Food Stamped begins to bring these issues to light.

More Resources on the SNAP Program

More on eligibility and benefits at the Food and Nutrition Service guide here.

More on the debate on SNAP and its nutrition-based restrictions at the NYTimes “Room for Debate.

More on Wholesome Wave

For more information on the screening or to get on the Food Literacy Project weekly newsletter, email louisa_denison@harvard.edu.

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