First some background: at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, we passed a Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating. I didn't like it. Here is the draft closest to what we passed, though a few mostly superficial amendments were adopted from the floor. Kinsi had a nice discussion of the class issues in the first draft. There were some changes made to that draft (reflected in the draft at the first link) to at least tone down the overall elitist feel of the thing. To my reading, it still doesn't reflect a real understanding of how difficult this stuff actually is if you aren't upper middle class. Further, it was clear from the overall tone of the debate on the floor that people just didn't get what a privileged position we were speaking from.
In response, the (total cutie) Rev. Nate Walker issued the following challenge:
(Summary: Just as an experiment: try to live on the amount of money that folks on food stamps have to live on.)
What the Rev. Walker didn't do was actually put the two ideas together. What if someone on food stamps actually tried to live by our statement of conscience?
Now, "living by the statement of conscience" is something of a misnomer in that the statement of conscience itself doesn't list any real edicts, though goodness knows the vegetarians gave adding them a shot.
So, I've reviewed the latest draft of the statement I could find, and made the following food policies for myself that I plan to stick with for the next couple of weeks:
1. Eat meat (or chicken or fish) at most once a day
2. Only buy animal products that certify the animals have been well-treated.*
3. Buy Organic whenever possible**
4. Buy Local whenever possible.
5. Buy Fair trade whenever possible.
6. Eating Communally (Ok, I'm not even sure what this means so I'm honestly not doing it.)
7. Eat in quantities that do not lead to obesity.
So that's half of my project. Virginia's food stamp guidelines are relatively straightforward in forming the other half of my project:
Items that can be purchased with SNAP include:
Food or food products meant to be eaten by people
Vegetable seeds and food producing plants, roots, and trees for family consumption
Baby formula, diabetic, and diet foods
Edible items used in preparing or preserving food such as spices and herbs,
pectin, and shortening
Water and ice labeled for human consumption
Meals delivered to elderly or disabled SNAP recipients if the organization providing the meal is authorized to accept EBT cards
Items that cannot be purchased with benefits include:
Prepared hot foods in grocery stores
Any prepared food (hot or cold) sold and meant to be eaten at the store
Alcoholic beverages and tobacco
Cleaning products, paper products, toiletries, and cooking utensils
Items for food preservation such as canning jars and lids, freezer containers, or food wrapping paper
Medicines, vitamins or minerals***
Items for gardening such as fertilizer and peat moss
I will add that I'm going to try to not eat out and if I do, the cost of whatever I order will come out of my budget. I realize food stamps can't be used to eat out at all, but I'm not completely screwing my social life just for this experiment. Also, if I find that this stuff is seriously getting in the way of studying for the bar, I will quit.
So there we go. TheCSO doesn't have to do this and the number of business lunches he eats would make it impractical, so I'm doing this by myself. Thus my budget is the amount of food stamps given to a single person: $200 per month or $100 for the two weeks I'm hoping to stick to this.
I haven't figured out what I will do if I go over to a friend's for dinner, money-wise or diet-wise.
I've eaten only ethical food today and have kept track of what I've spent on it and I will post an update tonight with how my first day went.
Cheap recipes very welcome.
FWIW, I have read the Rev. Naomi King's excellent fleshing out of the food stamp challenge. But I'm not living by it. Her points are well taken, though. My suburban self will have lots of choices that people who live in economically disadvantaged areas don't have. I will have in the back of my head that if I say to my husband "Screw this, let's go get some steaks," he will agree. Hell, I will have the car for the trips to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's this will require.
So whatever I do and however much I complain, keep in mind that I'm still doing a really privileged version of this.
Again, cheap recipes welcome.
*I'm granting myself a de minimis exception here. That's lawyer for "If the energy bar has a thin layer of milk chocolate and I have no way of knowing how the cow that made the tiny amount of milk that is in the small amount of milk chocolate was treated, I'm granting myself a pass on worrying about it."
** 3, 4, and to a lesser degree 5 conflict a lot. (My whole foods has organic tomatoes and local tomatoes, but none that are both. A purist would likely not buy tomatoes at all, but even the statement doesn't demand purism, so I just picked one.)
*** I am continuing to take medication and vitamins and I'm not taking the cost of them out of my budget.
(ADDED: Sara, I hit the wrong button and deleted your comment by accident. Your encouragement is appreciated, I'm just an idiot.)