About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Grand Central Market: nothing but a big tease

Today I went to the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. It is reasonably accessible by public transportation, and it is notorious for low prices. I had to go to Grand Central Market instead of the Farmer's Markets I was hoping to hit today because I slept in too late. It is really a pain that the Farmer's Markets in Watts and South Central are only open for a few hours on weekend mornings. I just didn't have it in me to get up in time this morning. Limited shopping hours are certainly an access issue with Farmers Markets. In order to go to these markets, you have to really plan and exert some extra effort.

The Grand Central Market has a lot of potential, though, so I was optimistic. It has the makings of a very exciting shopping experience: it is in a restored historic building and has been around since 1917, the sights and sounds are intriguing, there is a healthy mix of prepared food and grocery items, and the prices are very low. It is really a bustling scene.

While I did enjoy myself there, I would say that in the end I found it frustrating and in some ways disappointing. First of all, not all of the vendors accept food stamps, so I found that I would often get all excited about a stall and then realize that I couldn't shop there. The prices were low, but there was really nothing Organic at all, and no one could tell me where the produce was grown. The farmers themselves are not at this market, and the retail vendors at the stalls don't seem to have much information about the growing methods of the food. Since I want to focus on Organic and local this week, I only purchased a few things. I tried to only purchase foods that are less likely to have pesticide residue.

I bought:
  • 2 avocados at 5 for $2
  • 2 ears of corn at 2 for $1
  • 1 huge sweet potato, also 2 for $1
  • 1 banana: 3lb for $2
  • 1 large jicama: 2 lb for $1
  • 1 large head of cauliflower: $0.99/lb
  • 5 apricots: $0.99/lb
Total: $7.14
Remaining this week: $23.86 (Remember, I am still going on $31 per week now thanks to that grilled cheese sandwich a few weeks back...)

The Grand Central Market had some cheap produce, fine. But, for me it was really nothing but a big tease. In addition to grocery items, this market has tons of exotic ethnic food stalls selling everything from samosas to won ton soup. The food smelled great, I could see the chefs cooking it, and the prices weren't even that bad. Of course, they were not cheap enough that I could buy any prepared food to eat, so I had to just pass on by. There are amazing looking stalls full of dried fruits and every type of nut you can imagine. I am a huge dried fruit fan normally, so I was really frustrated that I couldn't afford any of those colorful dried mangoes or apricots.

When my friend bought a small fruit tart, I took a bite and realized it had custard and was of course not vegan. When he offered me a nut from the bag he bought I also took that, and then realized it was one of those sweet toffee covered nuts and was likely cooked in butter somewhere along the line. Once again, not vegan fare. In a way, I didn't even feel guilty this time. I was feeling so deprived after walking those stalls full of things I couldn't buy that my motivation to stick to my rules was really low. If it had been higher I probably would have resisted those two items, but my mood got the better of me.

As this month drags on, I am finding that it is at times harder to stay motivated. No one else around me is doing this crazy cheap vegan diet, everyone else seems to be enjoying their casual relationship with food. I feel ostracized and therefore sometimes lash out and do something rash - like take a bite of a dessert someone offers me. I think this is because I am just so sick of saying NO to myself every single day. I am surrounded by temptations, and I get tired of having good will power. Sometimes I feel like I don't care anymore, I just want a break.

Imagine if I was trying to do this for my entire life instead of just 1 month. Would it get easier? Or, would I eventually ware down and wind up in a McDonald's drive through?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. I think it helps those of us who have never had to make tough food (or other expenses) choices understand how someone can get into a cycle of making poor choices even when they are expensive, unhealthy, or both.