by Briana Sutherland
In Minnesota, the average amount a person receives each week in food support is $27.35. As of December there are 4635 individuals, including 2140 children, on food support in Sherburne County according to CAER.
To help make others aware of the challenges many food support recipients face, an awareness campaign led by Hunger Free Sherburne County called The Hunger Challenge kicked off March 4.
Participants of the Hunger Challenge were given the guidelines to only spend $27.35 (or $3.91 per day) on food and drinks from March 4-10. Any food purchased and consumed during the week must be included in the total spending and they must keep track of their receipts. They can’t eat food they already own (except spices and condiments) and must not accept free food and drinks from anyone.
Otsego Mayor Jessica Stockamp is one of the Hunger Challenge participants. Her husband Jim is planning on participating with her so they can help and support each other during the week while their three children are planning to participate with their parents at evening meals.
“I feel that you can only learn to feel true compassion and acceptance of someone else’s situation if you have to “walk in their shoes”, which is CAER’s slogan for 2012, and it really is fitting for the Hunger Challenge.” said Mayor Stockamp. “The people who depend on CAER are my neighbors, children my kids go to school with or people I interact with in the community.”
Mayor Stockamp said CAER is seeing more and more of what they call “the working poor” who are trying to stretch their dollars by using what CAER has to offer. But unfortunately food is toward the bottom of their list after their other expenses are paid.
With her small budget for the week and armed with her calculator, store specific list and coupons she began her shopping with her husband on Sunday morning at Target in Otsego. Taking into consideration the rising gas prices she planned to stay within the nearby community and had plans to shop at Cub Foods and Aldi later in the day.
She had spent her previous Friday evening combing through weekly ads, comparing prices for each store, and clipping coupons and sorting them by store into envelopes to maximize their budget.
Since farmer’s markets aren’t around during the winter months where she would tend to get her produce she plans on relying on more boxed meals to stretch her budget further.
“I have never done anything like this before and am nervous and excited all at the same time!” Stockamp said.
The Otsego mayor also planned her weekly meals in advance, with a menu consisting of chicken noodle soup, shepherd’s pie, oatmeal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, French toast and spaghetti.
Items she would normally purchase such as juice were left off the list due to the price. Other items such as cereal were left off in an effort to stretch their milk farther and Jim had to forgo one of his favorite items, chocolate.
One of the challenges she anticipates during the week is the multiple community meetings she’ll attend. She said planning ahead and bringing her own meals will have to be done because the additional cost of dining out won’t fit into her budget for the week.
After using six coupons, her Target Red Card, and reusable bags her Target trip totaled $11.90 with a savings of $6.96, breaking down to $5.95 spent individually. As an added bonus, she received additional coupons after completing her transaction.
“Having adults and children going to bed hungry in our community is not acceptable to me and I hope to bring needed attention to this very real issue,” Stockamp said. “Hopefully, the Hunger Challenge will cause more people to become involved and provide assistance.”