Planning is key to stretching food budget

Published 10:00 pm Monday, September 15, 2014

As Ann and John Gargiulo plan for their participation week with the SNAP Challenge, they are paying far more attention to food prices than normal.  The couple operates Vines and Stuff in Tryon, but they are finding how difficult decision making is when buying a week’s worth of groceries on a budget of $4.50 per day per person.  “We are aware of the plight of the poor,” said Ann Gargiulo, “but this is forcing us to experience how one can subsist on such a limited amount.”

The  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service that offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities.  The program replaces the old food stamp program and provides an average of $4.50 per day per individual in families than qualify for assistance.

The SNAP Challenge is a project sponsored locally by Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry as part of Hunger Action Month and is designed to build awareness within Polk County that hunger is very much a local as well as a national problem.  Several residents of the county are participating in the project during September.

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“We are fortunate to have been successful in business and can contribute to causes like Outreach,” John Gargiulo said. “But just giving is not enough. Through this challenge, we gain a greater understanding for those in need.  We give up food splurges and restaurant dinning for one week.  For too many people, this is a year-end, year-out struggle just to keep a minimal amount of healthy food on the table.”

The Gargiulos are talking about the challenges of hunger with customers and friends as a way to building public awareness.  “We will be explaining why we ‘brown bag’ our lunch instead of going out to the good restaurants up the street where you can’t buy lunch on a food stamp recipient’s $4.50 a day budget.”

Ann noted that a recent Feed America study showed more than one-fourth of Polk County children are deemed food insecure and six in 10 county school children are eligible to receive lunches for free or at a reduced price.  “If anyone wants to know firsthand how big the problem is, just visit Outreach where there has been a 30 percent increase in requests for assistance for each of the past two years.”  Ann said.

The couple is hoping to inspire others to contribute time and money so Outreach can better serve the growing need in Polk County.


-article submitted
by Joe Epely