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 Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.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


Monday, September 7, 2009

Passing the Torch: Hunger Action Month

The summer has ended, and my blog project is coming to an end.

Since May I have learned a great deal about access to nutritious food. I feel that this project barely scratched the surface on the issues it discussed, and I am now looking forward to exploring new ideas and projects on the same theme.

I am working, for example, with the manager of my local Farmers' Market on a CSA/Market Basket type program to increase access to Farmers' Market produce for everyone in my neighborhood. I will continue to blog about these follow-up projects intermittently on this page, so stay tuned for monthly updates if you wish!

Through the On Food Stamps blog I have had a good fortune to connect with tons of other people who are doing great projects about food access, too. I have linked many of them on the right side of this blog. One of my favorites is Mother Connie's Food Stamp Cooking Club.

Mother Connie is a retired Senior Citizen living on a limited Social Security income. She does not qualify for federal food programs such as SNAP/Food Stamps, WIC or the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program. Gas to drive to her "local" food pantry, Angel Food Ministries, is prohibitively expensive. As you can imagine, Mother Connie lives on a pretty tight food budget. But, she also loves to cook so she didn't let her limited budget get her down. As she became increasingly skilled at eating well on the cheap, Mother Connie thought about others in her community that might be in a similar situation.

"I was concerned," Mother Connie wrote to me "about those people who believed that they could maintain a life with Ramen noodles." So, Mother Connie developed a website devoted to educating people about how to prepare healthy meals with little income. Her project grew to incorporate a cooking class which has really brought people in her community together around healthy food in a great learning environment - Mother Connie's small and charming kitchen!

I really admire Mother Connie's work. It is a testament to the fact that all of us can do something in our communities - be it at the family dinner table, the break room at work, or our entire city - to help the movement towards healthy, sustainable eating gain momentum.

September is Hunger Action Month, and I am asking everyone who has been following my blog project to accept my passing of the torch. As I bring my project to a close, I am asking each and every one of you to accept my challenge: Make a commitment to do something in your sphere of influence to keep the momentum going.

You don't have to be Michael Pollan, you don't have to produce a film like Food Inc. You don't have to be Michelle Obama and plant a vegetable garden. You don't even have to do a food stamp challenge. There are plenty of ways to influence the people around you in a positive way when it comes to food, even if your budget is tight.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Shop at your local Farmers' Market.
  • Just ask: When you do go to the chain grocery store, ask the employees about the produce you see there. Where was it grown? What types of sprays or pesticides were used? Most likely they will have no idea, even if you ask for the store manager. The important part is that you are expressing the fact that you, as a consumer, care about these questions. CREATE THE DEMAND for healthier, locally grown products in your chain grocery market. We'll never get the things we want if we don't ask for them.
  • Improve your diet: Eat more vegetables, and keep your portions small. Anything you do to eat better will be noticed by the people around you and it will create the right kind of social pressure, as we've discussed throughout this blog.
  • Eat healthy dinners with your friends or family. Make it an event. Enjoy preparing food together, and invest some time and money into what you are putting into your body.
  • Tweet, post, or link anything that gets you thinking about food in a positive way. In this age of social media, each and every one of us is a self publisher. You may not have a website or blog of your own, but do you have a Facebook news feed or a Twitter account? Use it to get a conversation going about sustainable food!
Feel free to email me and let me know what you have done to accept the torch and work for a better food system in your own community and sphere of influence. I'd love to hear from you.

In the meantime I am signing off for awhile. Thank you for following my blog. I couldn't have done this project without your comments and support.


  1. Your project was wonderful; I love Mother Connie, too.
    At this moment in time I'm in Utah trying to gather 600 cans of food for the Utah Food Bank for a starter which is running low for this season.

    Love and Light, Sheila Davis

  2. Way to go Mother Connie We are so proud of you. As your coach and mentor I can honestly say that you are a true progressive action taker with a big heart for helping others,

    Thank You Julie for noticing a great person.

    Jeff Wellman

  3. Julie,

    You have passed the torch on to the right person.
    I know Mother Connie will share her wisdom and knowledge with those of us who enjoy her writings and who have also enjoyed eating at her table.

    Congratulations Connie! Well done!

  4. I know Mother Connie will too! But don't forget, I am passing the torch to EVERYONE.

  5. Julie,
    You might be interested to know that our little country church is currently gathering food for our local food pantry. We also plan a Fund Raiser and will collect food for hungry people at that event. If everyone would do just a little something for others, we will not only light a torch but we can create a ginormous flame from our passion!
    If we need to fire up soup kitchens, we might be able to come up with creative solutions for THAT, as well!
    God bless you for all the good you have done for so many and thank you for heightening the awareness of the need in such a loving, forthright way.
    Here's hoping your visitors will challenge themselves from your sage suggestions and will keep the wheel of caring turning round and round.

    Mother Connie
    PS/We have some openings for our Cooking Class! Pass the word!

  6. As Peter Gabriel writes in his song Biko:

    You can blow out a candle
    But you can't blow out a fire
    Once the flames begin to catch
    The wind will blow it higher

    Shine on, my friends.

  7. "Mother" Connie has continued to support ME in my own efforts to survive these tough times - I believe you could not have selected a better person to carry the torch for you!

    I hope everyone visits her blog and supports her efforts going forward! You can find her here: http://www.foodstampcookingclub.com/blog

    Make sure you visit her and cheer her on!

    You won't find a more positive and deserving person... humble and giving with such a gentle spirit.

    WOW, I'm so proud of Connie... thanks to Julie here for her efforts!


  8. Angel Food Ministries
    wants to remind everyone that the deadline for ordering is Monday, Sept 14th, 2009. Get your orders in before the deadline. Also don't forget the online coupon codes. "10FALLSP1" gives 10% off the Special box #1 of Angel Food. "SeptSig5" gives 5% off a signature box of Angel Food.

  9. dear julie,

    i feel i've missed you by only a month and some days, but your feedback would be greatly appreciated in this journey of mine.

    i am working on a project for low-income families of kansas city, mo. i have researched and researched all the issues that go along with eating on food stamps and decided that i should pursue a cookbook along with grocery list generator, and menu planner—all would work in accordance with each other. i am populating all the content inside and designing the structure of these things, and would love it if you would give me some feedback throughout the process.

    i couldn't find an email address to get in touch with you, but if you'd be willing i'd greatly appreciate it.

    you can check out my blog for the tid bits of research concerning this topic (there is much more beyond that), but you can there, also see the prototypes for the system (cookbook, menu planner, grocery list) that i've created thus far.

    hope to hear from you! please email if you're interested!!!


  10. ps

    love this quote(s) of yours:

    "It is impossible to achieve a healthy diet on $30/week if you are unwilling or unable to cook. Unfortunately, most Americans do not cook. They don't know how to cook, and they do not or cannot make the time to teach themselves. Many would rather hit McDonald's on the way home from work than buy a Julia Child book an start julienning vegetables.

    "I think one of the largest problems with our food system is that as a culture we Americans are unwilling to devote time or energy to cooking food. It has become ingrained in our thought process that food should be quick, cheap, and easy, that spending time preparing food is a bad thing. Since 'quick, cheap, and easy' tend to be in conflict with 'healthy' in the American food system, the result is pretty bleak."