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 Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.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,


Sunday, May 10, 2009

VEGAN on Food Stamps

My name is Julie Flynn.

I live in Los Angeles, and here are my On Food Stamps rules:

1. I will follow a Vegan diet. That means no meat, fish, eggs, cheese, or dairy products at all. I am choosing a Vegan diet to start simply because it will require me to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.

2. I will live on $35/week for 1 month. I am choosing $35 because it is a good compromise between the maximum benefits for an individual in my city ($44) and the average benefits received by an American ($21). I picked 1 month because this amount of time will allow me to really get into this experience, and learn from my mistakes. I bet by week 4 I will be much better at this than I am right now.

3. I will shop at stores in several areas in Los Angeles - Echo Park (very near where I live), and the South LA industrial district (where I work).
Echo Park provides me with a lot of options, South LA does not. In fact, that neighborhood is often referred to as a Food Desert.

4. I am adding this explanation now (5/24) because people keep asking me about this. On the topic of beverages: Anything that is part of a meal or daily routine will count within the budget. Bottled water, tea, or soda, morning coffee/tea, or any alcohol consumed as part of a meal count towards my total weekly budget. I have not been able to afford any of these things on $35 a week, so I have really not been buying them. Since the main focus of this Blog is access to food and not alcohol, I am allowing myself the occasional beer out with friends during the weekend, knowing that this is a luxury not available to most food stamp recipients. This allowance certainly makes this experiment easier on me. I have found that even with this one flexibility I am very socially isolated because of this project. Even if a cheap beer is "allowed", I find it very difficult to make time to meet friends because of all the planning, cooking, and shopping this project requires.

I thought long and hard about how to count beverages before beginning this Blog, and my choice really comes down to my personal On Food Stamps goals. Experiencing first hand what it is like to live on a tight budget, really immersing myself in that experience, is part of this project, but only a very small one. The truth of the matter is that that is an experience I already know. I already live on a very strict budget and base most of what I eat, buy, or do in my spare time on money. That sensation is not really anything new. My goals aren't so much about isolating and denying myself pleasure in order to feel what it is like to be poor. I am more interested in specifically exploring access to food on a limited budget. Part of what brought me to begin this project was that it was very relevant to my own life. It grew out of necessity. I don't have much to spend, and I want to eat well. I figured if I were going to have to struggle, experiment, and learn how to live healthy on the cheap, I might as well help others do it too. Others who choose to participate in On Food Stamps and make their own rules may choose to eliminate alcohol totally. I would be interested to compare my experience to theirs!

I hope that gives you some insight.

Here goes... wish me luck!


  1. Hi Julie,

    I think what you're doing is remarkable. I'm extremely excited to see someone putting this theory to the test. I reside in NYC (soon to be Boston) but I work at a major hospital that is located across the street from a housing project complex. Within the past year a farmer's market has been implemented to help the community gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables... so if someone in LA can do it.. surely it can be done here as well. I'm thoroughly looking forward to seeing your progression. Good Luck!!!

  2. Hey Natalie, Thanks so much for your feedback. I don't know if you read my first post (it is sort of long), but I am really open to having other people contribute their experiences and insights as well. If you have anything to say about what you see at the hospital relating to the housing project, health, etc. please feel free to write a post and send it to me in an email. I might like to quote you. Would love an NYC perspective. It would be great, for example, to hear more about how you see the community where you work reacting to the farmers market. How has it been received? Are people going to it regularly?

  3. I'm curious as to why eating vegan would necessarily require more veggies than vegetarian. Trying to train yourself to new (fairly arbitrary) eating habits in addition to the restricted budget seems like shooting yourself in the foot. Since most dairy/eggs tend to be expensive anyway and thus would make minimal appearances in the diet out of necessity, forcing a zero tolerance policy seems... excessive.