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 Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.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


Thursday, June 4, 2009

What happens if you get sick?

I am still new to Los Angeles, so the seasons here (and the ailments that come with them) are new to me. I can tell that this week of gloomy clouds and temperature fluctuations is an LA version of "allergy season" though, because sure enough, I am not feeling so hot.

I feel very run down, my head is full of pressure, and all I really want to do is slip into my bed and stay there. Oh, and also sip on some soup.

And that is a problem right now. I could still afford a can or two of soup this week, but since I have no extra food stored away in my cupboards, I would have to go out to the store to get that soup. I'm not sure I have the energy for that. If I didn't have a car, as some food stamp recipients don't, a trip to the store would be totally out of the question. Who wants to wait outside for a bus for half and hour when they feel sick? No thanks. I could make soup, I guess, but I don't really have the right ingredients, nor do I have enough money to buy the additional ones I need. Making soup from scratch would also take some energy.

Frankly, I do not have the energy to make anything at all. It was one of those days were just getting through work without falling asleep was sort of a challenge. The last thing I want to do right now is stand in front of a stove and stir things for an hour. Even if I could muster up enough energy to cook, I would have to do the dishes right away afterwards (cockroaches are always a threat in my kitchen, remember?) and those two things together would surely wipe me out.

Luckily, it turns out that I don't have to cook tonight. Last night I cooked a large meal of brown rice with carrots and zucchini in a simple curry. My friend came over and we ate the food together. Tonight he is cooking an equally cheap, vegan meal for me. I was planning to reflect on how much easier or harder this was when I was sharing the cooking duties with someone else for a day, but the fact that I feel sick brings in a whole new element.

I really couldn't cook if I wanted to. I am very lucky that the trade worked out as it did today. All of this brings me to a pretty important realization. Ill health majorly complicates my effort to live on a strict food budget. Living alone, being single AND begin sick really makes sticking to $31/week a challenge. Think of that profile for a moment: single, sick, and living alone. Who does that describe? To me, an elderly person comes to mind immediately.

Senior citizens are very much at risk for hunger and food insecurity. Many low-income seniors in America rely very heavily on small social security checks that do not leave any cushion for changes in their expenses. If the price of heat, or rent, or medicine goes up, many of them are forced to cut back on food to pay the bills.

As this month draws to a close, I am realizing that Vegan On Food Stamps has barely scratched the surface. I simply cannot stop this project this weekend, there is too much to cover. I feel that there are a lot of scenarios I haven't explored. For example, what would it be like to live on $35/week with diabetes? Or, HIV/AIDS? What would it be like if I were 95 years old and living alone? Throughout the summer I will explore these various scenarios through this blog, one week at a time. I hope you will keep reading to see what I find.

For today, I feel very lucky that I have someone who is returning a favor by cooking for me. I am a little bit concerned because I will not have any left overs to take to work for lunch tomorrow, but I think I can make it work with what I have left in my fridge. I am feeling a bit run down because of my allergies, and I am realizing just how hard this would be if I had any type of chronic disease which affected my energy levels or further restricted my diet.


  1. I don't know if this falls into your restrictions, as it isn't the most nutritious...
    When I was broke I ate a lot of ramen. A LOT. I still crave it when I'm sick. Cheap and soothing and better for you than going hungry.

  2. I will definitely continue to read... btw I hope you feel better Julie.. I have severe allergies myself and they really kick my ass when pollen counts are high

  3. This is one of the reasons my church provides a senior lunch program in affiliation with the LA Parks and Rec Dept. My church started a corp decades ago that owns and operates a senior housing facility next door, and many of the residents show up M-F for the lunch program. The senior lunch program is free, but they do ask for donations from those who can afford it, and require a guest fee for non-seniors. While they do not get to choose what's on the menu, it does alleviate the need to cook for themselves, and often provides serving sizes larger than I think I could eat, and I'm a healthy 5'3" and 35 yrs old. Granted, most folk have to go farther than next door to reach a service location.