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Yes, I can eat for $4.43 a day

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NORMAN, Okla. -- I opened The Oklahoman today and on the front page was the question “Could you eat for $4.43 a day?”

I read the article and found that the writer was the paper’s health reporter, Jaclyn Cosgrove.  Cosgrove said she bought a loaf of bread, dry bean soup package garlic powder, peanut butter vegetable broth 2/3 lb broccoli crowns, spinach, 2/5 lb apples and ¼ lb of roma tomatoes for a total of $13.48. So she had $17.53 left to spend, she said, “A usual days's meal included a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast, an apple and soup for lunch, maybe another peanut butter sandwich for dinner, maybe with some soup later.” She said that “While I was at work, I was tired and spacey. I would wake up from moments of staring at my computer monitor and realize that I hadn't done anything for a few moments.”

This implies that she was so malnourished that she could not function at work.  Cosgrove then goes on to report on the big problem with the cut in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), or food stamps, as it is commonly known. She reports in detail the number of people on SNAP in Oklahoma and that the average payment was $4.43 a day or $31.01 a week per person.

I decided to see what I could buy with $31.01 to last me a week and how I could eat. I made a list of food articles that I thought would provide a nutritional diet and some variety.

My list is as follows:

10 lbs potatoes - $2.88

small can vegetable shortening - $2.99

5 lbs flour - $2.49

one dozen eggs – $1.69

one lb carrots - $0.59

one bunch celery - $1.79

one lb dry beans - $1.29

2 lbs bananas – $1.10

one garlic clove – $0.59 

salt – $0.49

pepper – $2.49

yeast – $1.09

2 cans tomatoes - $2.00

one  jar peanut butter $1.77

one  lb sugar - $1.59

one  lb onion - $0.99

red leaf lettuce - $1.99

two cans of green beans - $1.10

two cans of corn - $1.18

Total = $30.10

My purchases were all food that needed to be prepared before eaten. The 10 pounds of potatoes will last more than one week as will the flour, sugar, vegetable shortening pepper and salt. I would not have to buy these items next week. A daily menu would be for breakfast, one to two eggs and biscuits and potatoes. A loaf of bread baked at home cost about 60 cents, so I would bake bread with the flour sugar shortening and yeast that I bought. I would also make a large vegetable soup with the items I bought. Lunch could be soup and a banana. Dinner would be soup and dessert rolls that I had baked.  The next week I could add some cheese and maybe some lower cuts of meat. 

I was bothered by the article because it seemed that the reporter set out to prove it would be nearly inhuman to live on $4.43 a day. Over 70% of the world’s population would think they were feasting on $4.43 a day. The reporter bought peanut butter for $3.99. I bought peanut butter for $1.79. The article was, to me, emotion driven, and did not fairly report on what you could buy on the amount given.

Perhaps the reporter doesn't know how to make bread or has never had to shop the economy aisle. So, for what it is worth, you can live on $4.43 a day for food. You can't live like you had $20.00 a day for food, but you can make it. I emailed the reporter and told her that my mother's family lived on mainly home-canned crowder peas one winter.

The hunger story in America gets a little old when all I see around me are overweight people coming out of the Salvation Army retail store. One in six, or one in five, or one in four, or maybe everyone in America is hungry?  As I have said many times the demand for free food will have no limit.


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Ted H. Smith

Ted H. Smith is a 1966 graduate of Texas A&M University. He received his Master Degree in...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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