By Helen Wolt
Broward County has the most over all food insecure residents in South Florida. An estimated 15 percent don’t know where their next meal is coming from. They’re likely to run out of food, or skip meals to stretch their budget.
Those who qualify for the Supple-mental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, still have a struggle. SNAP allows just $4.50 a day per person for meals.
“That’s where food banks come in,” said Sari Vatske, Feeding South Florida’s vice president of community relations. The Pembroke Park- based nonprofit provides supplemental groceries to help households make ends meet.
“The reality is that it takes a whole host of interventions for a family to get by,” Vatske said.
To raise awareness of the great need, the food bank is putting on a SNAP Challenge. “It’s one of the Feeding South Florida’s national Hunger Month initiatives,” Vatske said. Participants agree to spend no more than $4.50 a day for food. They get a sense of life on a SNAP budget, but it’s for a limited time.
Individuals, businesses and religious groups have accepted the task. Additionally, they have the option of seeking sponsors and turning the challenge into a fundraiser.
Last year, congregants of Temple Beth Sholom took the challenge, raising $14,393 for Feeding South Florida. Fourteen families with 37 people followed the SNAP allotment for seven days.
“It was tough,” said Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz. She shopped with calculator in hand. Choices were limited. Family members found themselves negotiating over which items to buy.“We had enough to eat, but it was not a balanced diet. It was very heavy in carbs and lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables,” Pomerantz said. “It was a challenge, but for us it was one week.”
Stuart Sheldon said he lost a few pounds while his family of four dined on $128 per week. His wife went without coffee. His two young sons sorely missed desserts. They all felt malnourished.
“Everyone was kind of on edge,” Sheldon said. But worse was the mental fogginess he felt. “This is real life for a lot of people,” he said. “It’s a very effective way for that lesson to be delivered to children. ”For a SNAP Challenge Kit, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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