Editor’s note: The SMI students, as a group, were given the equivalent of food stamps (based upon a zero-income household) and told to purchase and prepare all of their own food. For a family of five in Tennessee, this amounts to $200 weekly – about $1.90 per meal per person. Additionally, they were each given a $10 bill for their own personal use (laundry, personal hygiene, etc.).
Cameron Michael writes of this experience…
The first day of the SMI when we received our food stipend I looked down at the cash in my hand and wondered, “What am I going to do with this?” However, after taking some time to look around and find reasonably priced healthy food, I learned that living on food stamps is not all that bad. The prospect of not having enough money to buy your own food has frightened me from childhood. This idea persisted and has been a part of the reason why I want to be able to consistently provide for my family. However, I learned that the food stamp budget is one that can be easily lived on. I realized quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to get the foods that I had always enjoyed whenever I wanted. I had to budget things out and make sure that I had enough food for the week, and as time moved on I became more used to getting what I need first. After I got everything that I needed I might then be able to buy a candy bar or snack food.
Coming from a household where I could get a Snickers bar whenever I wanted to, this was somewhat of a hurdle for me. There were several occasions when I was craving a caramel mocha Frappuccino, salt and vinegar chips, or Arizona sweet tea and was unable to get it because of my lack of funds. This really showed me that I am living such a privileged life. There were so many things that I took for granted before the SMI and this is just one of them.