Families on food stamps struggle to afford healthy meals

KING 5's Ted Land reports.

SEATTLE -- A million people in Washington State are on food stamps. The program offers a few dollars per day to help people get by, and relies heavily on organizations like Northwest Harvest to provide what the government does not.

KING 5’s annual Home Team Harvest event brings in truckloads of donations, which help fill in those gaps.

According to the Washington Economic Services Administration, the average household enrolled in the food assistance program, called Basic Food, receives between $4.87 and $6.47 a day. Households typically include more than one person.

Northwest Harvest, the state’s leading hunger relief agency, says adults who are on food stamps should plan to shop with about $4 a day.

“People talk about the need to cut this program, but it's already been cut several times in the last few years. In 2013 everybody who received basic food assistance saw about an 11-13% cut in their assistance,” said Christina Wong, public policy manager for Northwest Harvest.

As a result, recipients often end up buying cheap, processed foods, loaded with sodium, sugar and fat.

“It's not the choice that they want to make, it's the choice that they feel like they’re forced to make,” Wong said.

To cook wholesome meals, the only option for many families is to visit their local food bank, where they can pick up some extra items and plan a menu around that.

KING 5’s Ted Land recently attempted to make some meals on a food stamp budget. Here are a few recipes he used:

Honey mustard chicken with roasted acorn squash (serves two)

Cost: About $2 per serving

Ingredients

• Four chicken drumsticks
• One acorn squash
• 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 Tablespoons honey
• ¼ cup mustard – any kind, preferably Dijon
• Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place drumsticks in oven-safe metal pan or dish. Cut squash in half. Scoop out seeds with a spoon. Place each half cut side down and slice into one inch pieces. Toss with oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange in pan with chicken. Roast chicken and squash for about 30 minutes, until squash is browned and chicken registers 165 degrees near the bone.

Masur Dal (Red Lentils with Onion)

Cost: About $1 per serving

(Adapted from USDA Mixing Bowl recipe website)

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup dried red lentils
• 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
• 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 5 teaspoons vegetable oil
• 1 small jalapeno, diced
• 1/2 large onion, chopped

Directions

Rinse the lentils in a strainer under running water two to three times. Boil lentils in 1 1/2 cups salted water until they turn yellow and soft. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder, and sugar to the boiled lentils and mix well. Turn off the heat.

In a separate pan, add rest of the oil and allow it to heat. Add onion and jalapeno to the oil and stir until it starts to turn light brown. Add boiled lentils (mixed with spices) into the fried onion and stir well. Over medium heat, add water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture becomes like a thick stew, no more than 5 minutes.
Serve over rice.

If you would like to help KING raise 5 million meals, join us one one of our seven collection sites this Saturday, December 3.  Click here for more information our Home Team Harvest locations.

Copyright 2016 KING


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