Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Feed a family of 4 for one day in under $16 #HungerActionMonth

September is Hunger Action Month.  You can learn more about Hunger in America at Pass the Plate , part of Feeding America.  At these websites you will learn how you can help feed the hungry in America.  You will be given an opportunity to donate, volunteer or even to write your State Representative regarding this terrible problem.

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Kate of Kate's Recipe Box asked the members of Festive Foodies to join her in attempting to feed a family of 4 only spending the allotted $5.50 or less per meal per family that they would receive from government assistance.

Many of my regular readers know that I am very involved with our Parish Food Pantry.  Our parish feeds nearly 100 families per month.  We do this by supplementing what they receive from paychecks, social security payments, retirement accounts and/or governmental assistance.  Each family is welcome to come every 2 weeks.  

Many of our clients are elderly and trying to exist on social security.   Many are families that have both parents working but they still cannot make ends meet.  Many are disabled and unable to work, attempting to get by on SSD payments.

Some families come every 2 weeks like clockwork.  Some come once a month when funds are running low.  Some come only occasionally, when unexpected expenses cut into their grocery budget.  Some come only for holidays.

We try to make sure that each family is given the groceries to provide 1 meal per day, be that breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It is the best we can do even with how generous our parishioners are to this challenge.  If you would like to donate to our Food Pantry you can do so by following this link.

A typical distribution at our Food Pantry for a family of 4 to supplement them for a two week period may look like this:
  • 1 gallon of Milk
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 package bacon or sausage
  • 1 loaf of bread
  • 1 package hot dog or hamburger buns
  • 1 package lunch meat
  • 1 package cheese
  • 1 package hot dogs or smoked sausage
  • 4-5 cans of vegetables
  • 2 cans of soup
  • 1 lb of margarine
  • 1 box of cereal
  • 1 jar peanut butter
  • 1 jar jelly
  • 1 lb. hamburger
  • 1 tin tuna fish
  • 1 pkg. rice
  • 1 pkg. noodles
  • 1 whole chicken or chicken pieces
  • 1 pkg spaghetti
  • 1 jar or can of sauce
  • 2 cans of fruit
  • 1 can of Spam or Corned Beef Hash
  • 1 can of Beef Stew
  • 2 pkgs of Macaroni and Cheese
  • 2 cans of ravioli or spaghettios
  • 1 pkg of treats (cookies, crackers, chips, candy, etc)
  • 1 can or bottle of juice
  • tea or coffee, if available
We also will try to include some fresh fruits and vegetables.  This is easier in the summer and fall when our local farmers and parishioners share bounty from their crops and gardens.

Keeping this in mind and working on the assumption that the family has no provisions at all in their household.  I went shopping on line at my local Kroger store and was able to come up with a breakfast, lunch and dinner for a family of four for less than the allotted $6.50.  

Granted, they are not the most nutritious meals but they are cost effective and filling.  Getting proper nutrition is a huge problem for needy families in our country.  It is one of the problems that cause obesity in our society.  It is hard to eat healthfully when you are on such a tight budget so these families eat a lot of carbs and starches to fill them up inexpensively.

For breakfast I bought a loaf of wheat bread, a lb. of margarine, a dozen eggs and a package of sausage patties for a total of $4.93 cents.  

With these items they can make breakfast sandwiches or eggs in any style they like with a side of sausage and toast.

There was no room in the breakfast budget for milk or juice.  They will settle for water.

For lunch I was able to buy a gallon of milk, some cheese singles and I also picked up some Salad Dressing to have on hand for dinner tonight.

This provided for Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (using the remaining bread and some of the margarine from breakfast) and a glass of milk.

For dinner I bought a cucumber, a package of garden salad, a lb. of whole grain spaghetti, a can of mushrooms and a can of pasta sauce.

Using the dressing that I bought with the money for lunch I can now serve my family of four pasta and salad for dinner.  I could even cut that cucumber into spears and serve them with my grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.  Woohooooo.....yes, I am being sarcastic.

Having worked for many years putting together our food pantry and distributing to families that I have come to know and care about, I get very discouraged when I see and hear some of the reactions regarding those that find themselves in need.  I hear things like "let them get a job", "they are just lazy", "they have money for alcohol and cigarettes" "why should we work just to pay taxes to help them?".

I challenge these people to come to my pantry and work with me.  I dare them to see the vet without legs, the family of 5 whose husband died leaving mom who works her butt off as a waitress to provide for her 4 children, the elderly couple who cannot stretch their social security checks, that they worked their entire lives for, to last an entire month.

Are there some that take advantage?  Of course.  Are they the norm?  Absolutely not.  Do some also get groceries from other charities?  Yes and God bless them because as you can see, our pantry cannot provide enough food for them.

The recipe I'm sharing today is that Spaghetti of which I spoke.  I will sometimes use prepared sauce for my spaghetti, however I don't use this brand and I doctor it all up with meat, onions, garlic,  and fresh mushrooms. I also have fresh Parmesan cheese with which to top it.

Let me clarify, now I don't serve meals like this, but when my children were young and the recession was in full force?  This type of meal and those that I provide to our clients at the Food Pantry were all I could afford and what I had available to feed my eldest children.

However, unlike today, I did have pantry items, salt, pepper and seasonings to add to our simple meals.  I also had parmesan cheese, and many more vegetables to  include in the sauce and in the salad.

But, for today's challenge, I acted as though I had just lost everything I had in a house fire or as if I was a parent with 3 children who fled from a dangerous, abusive household with only the clothes on our backs.  I used no seasonings at all.

The good thing about this meal.  It would feed a family of four very generously for at least 2 meals, providing lunch the following day.  It filled a void and it was edible.  It was not delicious.  

I took the leftovers the following day, added more of my homemade sauce, cooked up some onions and garlic to add, tossed it all together with a lot of seasonings and mozzarella cheese and baked it up as a side dish to Roasted Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions.  It was much more tasty after having been served a big portion of humble pie the night before.  We forget how fortunate we really are.  

Thanks Kate, for this reminder, for myself and my readers whom I invite to join me in supporting the food pantry, food bank, food kitchen or homeless shelter of their choice during this month.

Here is a message from Kate explaining why she is embracing this cause:

September is Hunger Action Month – a time to bring attention to food insecurity. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 1 in 8 Americans were food insecure in 2017. That’s 40 million people – more than 12 million of which are children – with a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. The meals below were made with a budget of $5.50 – the average amount a family of four would have for a meal on a SNAP budget. We’re sharing these recipes today to show you how far these dollars go – or don’t go – and to encourage you to donate to organizations addressing hunger issues. Feeding America and local food banks are the boots on the ground helping feed your neighbors daily. As a group, we’re supporting Feeding America’s efforts to end hunger. We are collecting donations for Feeding America here: 

Will you forgo your morning coffee stop and donate $5 to help feed the needy instead? There are also many great local organizations fighting hunger too, including the OLR Food Pantry that is linked to above.

Hunger Action Month Recipes

Thanks again to Kate of Kate's Recipe Box for organizing this event!


  1. Thanks for being such an inspiration, Wendy. And your parish folks are so lucky to have you...and your big heart!

  2. A great reminder of how blessed we are! And thank you for your charitable efforts! They make a difference!!!!

  3. When I was working as a social worker I met many people living below the poverty level and it broke my heart. I'm glad to be able to participate in this event to increase awareness. The challenge to make a meal on such a small budget got the conversations going in my family.

    1. That is a good thing Shirley, I hope this is the topic around many dinner tables this month.


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