Can $1.50 Provide You With a Healthy Meal?

This post was written by Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America.

As a leader of a domestic hunger relief organization, I know a lot about hunger by the numbers: the 49 million people in America who face food insecurity; the 3.9 billion pounds of groceries that the Feeding America network distributes to 37 million people each year; the more than 60,000 agency locations where our clients can receive groceries.

Additionally, there are 48 million participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)–the program formerly known as food stamps–to help put food on the table for their families. The average SNAP benefit per meal amounts to just $1.50.

This last number took on great meaning for me last week when I embarked on my seven-day SNAP Challenge, during which I tried to live off of $1.50 per meal for a week. Throughout the challenge, I didn’t have a dollar to spare. The experience has made me even more committed to doing everything we can to find an end to hunger.

For those of you who love food the way I do—who believe food can help create connections to family, friends and culture—you know that it’s not just meals that a family facing hunger may miss out on. When you live on four or five dollars a day for food, you can spend all of your energy just trying to get by.

My meals were not always satisfying, and I certainly felt my body physically craving more nutrition at times. It was a tedious reality: the mental strain of sticking to a limited budget, frequently thinking about what my next meal would be and the struggle to make the hodgepodge of food left at the end of the week work as a meal. Every client that a Feeding America food bank can relieve of this burden is worth fighting for.

My heart was very heavy when I finished. My week participating in the SNAP challenge this Hunger Action Month has come to an end, but one in seven Americans continues to depend on the program. Making the lives of these individuals and families harder still, last Thursday the House passed a disappointing Farm Bill nutrition title that would cut nearly $40 billion from the SNAP program over 10 years.

Participating in the challenge is one step that can help us prevent this critical safety net from being dissembled through the attention it brings to SNAP participants’ reality. The latest bill may have been passed in the House, but we are reaching thousands of people through our SNAP Challenges with the message: Don’t take a single meal away from a family struggling with hunger.

You can help. It’s not too late to take the challenge or call your representative to speak out about these devastating cuts. I would like to thank my partners in this challenge: Ron Shaich, Panera Bread Founder, Chairman and CEO; Matt Knott, Feeding America President; Kate Maehr, Greater Chicago Food Depository CEO; Kori Reed, Vice President, Cause and Foundation at ConAgra Foods, and her family; and the many other leaders and advocates for those facing hunger. Thank you for all you do.


Photo credit: Thinkstock


Karen P.
Karen P4 years ago

It's very sad. And how about the people addicted to cooking shows, all these ridiculous prima donnas and orchestrated dramas, screaming and tearing their hair out if their creme brulee doesn't work out. Pathetic.

Kate S.
Kate S5 years ago

yeahhhh... if you buy packets of seeds with that money and wait (hungrily) and reap from your garden. Maybe...

Alina Kanaski
Alina Kanaski5 years ago

Thanks for sharing!!

Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

The same stupid right wing people making the same idiotic comments, indicateing that they STILL don't understand why there is poverty. Let's try this approach; Have you ever seen a rich person homeless, hungry,without transportation and what ever they needed for medical care? What's the difference between a rich person and the rest of us? And why do well off people think if you take money out of circulation, via the Safety Net, in the mainstream economy that it will 'save' money? Especially their tax dollors? So they can spend more on what, exactly? Production would dwindle to a minimum and fill in the worse case scenario . Peoples needs are expensive, and the things we all need people to do are expensive.There is no getting around it so just deal with it and stop wanting to punish people for needing regular nurishment, on going housing, ect. Saying 'It was never ment to be an ongoing thing' is about as dumb as it gets.Was poverty 'never ment to be an on going thing?' If not, then why hasn't it been fixed by those who print the money and hold the money supply in check? After all, the reason that's given is they create the jobs and invest in...what, exactly?

GGma Sheila D.
Sheila D5 years ago

The average is $1.50...I figured I get about $1.36, depending on how many days there are in the month.

Mike Kelly
Mike K5 years ago

Suzan F. " Maybe we should all go to the White House, & dine on fine steak & lobster with the Prez at one of his 'garden concerts.' "

Do you think we at Care2 are stupid, Suzan F? Or is it really you, that is soooooo stupid that you really believe President Barack Obama has anything, whatsoever, to do with the draconian cuts that your tea bagger republican party has imposed on hungry Americans?

If it is the latter, then there are remedial reading courses offered at night school, and after a couple of years you'll catch up with reality.

If it's the former, then let me be the first to address you with the "B" word. FUs are also available as appropriate responses to your inanities.

Elke Hoppenbrouwers

I participated in the challenge. I don't eat meat and usually go to farmer's markets. The money would barely last to buy vegetables and fruits in the supermarket. Actually I picked a lot of fruits myself. Made my own humus and other sandwich spreads. I know that I did not fulfill all the nutritional needs of an adult, had no wine with dinner or an occasional chocolate treat but managed to have all my meals without going over the amount of $1.50 per meal.

Kay martin
Kay M5 years ago

Thank you for a great article with good information, and thanks to the 142 care 2 members who commented on this subject, I enjoyed reading all of them. keep the information coming.

B J.
BJ J5 years ago

$1.50 per meal/day is almost impossible for 1 person to live on eating just semi-decent food. Bogus budget cuts to these life saving programs by our government is criminal greed.

Sandi C.
Sandi C5 years ago

I don't see how!