It’s Friday. The last day of the Food Stamp Challenge for some of us. The last day this column will run as well.

Jacksonvillagers Fran Daniel, Cris Neeld, Robert Haberle, Dale Jamerson and I (a Ruskite) have all been eating like we are on food stamps this week.

We all took $21 — the average food stamp allowance for an individual in Cherokee County, as reported by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services Commission — and purchased enough food for a week — that’s 21 meals.

Dale got a late start on his week for various reasons, but is getting into the full swing of things now.

He said he hasn’t done any real shopping yet, but he picked up a few necessities and is doing some comparison shopping at the different grocery stores in town.

“I’m curious to see what kind of bargains I might find,” he said.

He said he had some ideas for a menu before he checked out prices.

“First I thought of a big bag of salad, but that and the dressing were so over the limit, I scratched that,” he said. “Then I wanted to do a stew, but with the price of meat, I just can’t get there.”

It was back to the drawing board after that first price check. His new plans are a little less grand.

“I love chips and salsa, and they can be made into a meal,” he said. “And Ramen noodles are really cheap. I got a can of soup and could split that into two meals.

“So I figure I’ll do oatmeal for breakfast, Ramen noodles for lunch and a chips and salsa meal for dinner. I’m trying to be nutritious, but it’s not happening.”

He has a double challenge since he has to stick to a diet that helps curb cholesterol.

“I’ve been eating oatmeal for breakfast,” he said. “So that won’t be too bad. I compared prices of the off-brands and they are cheaper.”

Dale admitted he got caught in Subway earlier this week and was accused of cheating on the challenge.

“I really didn’t, because the friend I was with actually paid for that,” he said with a laugh.

“It’s been a real challenge,” he said of trying to think of ways to stretch $21. “I like it, but my heart goes out to the people who have to do this for real.”

I got a lot of calls and e-mails from people who only get $10 a week from the state, as did Fran. I also got calls and e-mails from people who just flat refused to believe a person could live on $21 a week.

It’s possible, just not very nutritious or delicious.

Another woman, who didn’t include her name, e-mailed me to say she and her family utilize food stamps and shared some of her tips on making her stamp allotment stretch and work some nutrition in at the same time.

“This is what we’re hoping for, with this challenge,” Fran, the director of HOPE, said. “Anyone who wants to teach a class or share their knowledge on how to work with what limited resources you can actually get on food stamps, please call me.

“This is the type of information we want and need to pass on.”

HOPE officials want to implement a project called Operation Frontline, which would utilize volunteers to teach people how to plan nutritional meals, how to shop on a budget and other tools someone might need to lead a healthier lifestyle even if they have to live on $21 or less a week. Call HOPE, 903-586-7781, to volunteer or share tips and recipes.

Recommended for you