Friday, January 4, 2013

SNAP Challenge - Menu and Recipes for Day Three

                              Salvation Army Food Pantry

                                   Emergency Food Box

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I want to start with numbers tonight. Most folks who receive SNAP benefits exhaust them long before the end of the month is reached. While many believe that's because they've squandered their allotments, the brutal truth is the benefits provided by the system are not large enough to feed families or individuals for a full month. Fortunately, at least in most states, there are programs, usually administered  by service organizations or groups with religious affiliations, that pick up the slack. Bob and I spent the day visiting food pantries that provide emergency food relief for people in our area. Oregon is a state where chronic unemployment was a problem long before the great recession affected the rest of the nation. That means we had a workable distribution system in place when the rolls of SNAP participants exploded during the recession. While what is done here may not be elegant, the logistics are efficient and surplus food reaches the poor who need the safety net it provides. Our program may not mirror what is done in your state, but because it is the one I know, I want to share it with you. The county in which I live has a large food bank that gleans and gathers surplus food from many sources and makes it available to food pantries throughout the area. Its operation is funded by the county and additional money that comes from fund raisers and individual donations. The pantries are responsible for getting food to those who need it. While they receive surplus food from the county, they are responsible for distribution costs to recipients. The county is divided into geographical distribution areas, and the size and hours of operation vary from one location to another. All, however, share a common distribution policy. There are no true means tests. Recipients must provide proof of an address and sign a declaration of need that is based on family income. There is no waiting period and once that document is signed they are eligible for emergency food assistance. That means they are entitled to one food box a month. A fail safe within the system gives participants access to four additional boxes every year. Recipients do not get to "shop" for the contents of their food baskets. The boxes are put together by agency staff and the contents depend on what is available at the time of the request and the make-up of the family. The value of the box falls within guidelines that depend on the size of the family. A box for one will contain food items worth $25.  A box for two is valued at $40, while the box for a family of seven, the limit supported by the program, is $70. Obviously, the food pantries are one place where the system can be scammed. You must, however, remember that most are run by religious organizations and these folks practice the gospel that they preach. Rather than refuse one hungry man, they feed all who come their way. A recognition, perhaps, that hunger of the spirit is even more devastating than that of the body. Most SNAP participants supplement their allotments with food that is provided by food pantries and that makes them an important weapon in the fight against hunger. They are a godsend for the working poor.

                                          Menu for SNAP Challenge Day Three


                                                             Orange Juice
                                        *  Maple Baked Oatmeal with Milk
                                                          Corn Muffins


                                                  Leftover Potato Soup
                                Open-Faced Toasted Cheese Sandwiches


                            Small Tossed Salad with Oil and Vinegar Dressing
                                        *  Chicken and Noodle Casserole

Recipes for the Day:

                                Chicken Noodle Casserole

White Sauce
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons margarine
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Juice of half a lemon lemon
1 teaspoon dried tarragon or thyme leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 cups diced chicken
Casserole Mixture
1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed and drained
4 cups cooked egg noodles
1/2 cup shredded cheese (i.e. Cheddar, American, Colby)

1) Preheat oven to 400 degree F. Lightly spray a 1-1/2 quart casserole with cooking spray. Set aside.
2) To make white sauce: Melt margarine in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir in flour and cook until foam subsides, about 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add lemon juice, tarragon and Parmesan cheese and stir until smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
2) To prepare chicken: Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a skillet until it shimmers. Add chicken and saute until it is no longer pink. Transfer chicken to prepared casserole dish.
3) To assemble casserole: Stir vegetables, chicken and noodles into white sauce, mixing well. Turn into prepared casserole dish. Top with grated cheese and bake for about 30 minute, or until heated through and cheese has melted. Yield: 4 servings.

                                   Maple Baked Oatmeal

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup maple-flavored syrup
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place margarine in a 9 x 4 x 3-inch bread pan and place in oven to melt.Do not allow to burn.
2) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oats, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together milk, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla.
3) Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix well, making sure oats are completely moistened.
4) Remove bread pan from oven and pour oat mixture into it. Stir mixture until most of margarine is incorporated.
5) Bake for 30 minutes, or until edges are golden. Serve hot with additional milk. Yield: 3 servings.

One Year Ago Today: Rum Raisin Biscuits

Two Years Ago Today:  Minced Chicken with Oyster Sauce

Three years Ago Today: Roasted Garbanzo Beans with Cajun Spice


Red Nomad OZ said...

Another amazing budget menu - and another similarity with Australia where volunteers, religious groups and community agencies pick up the slack from a system that doesn't work for all.

While I never thought of your blog recipes as particularly complex, the SNAP ones are turning simple cooking into an art form!!

Coleens Recipes said...

You are really serious about this experiment, I am very interested about the information you are sharing with us. I think we will give that maple oatmeal a try, it sounds VERY good. Keep up the great posts!!

KathyB. said...

Very interesting.I visited a food pantry /women & childrens' restaurant in Spokane.They feed a chef prepared meal ( chefs from the city hotels, restaurants, etc. volunteer)to women & children 3 or 4 times a week.It is in the basement of a large inner city church. They set the tables nicely, and serve the food in a pleasant eating area, then send each family home with a bag of food full of whatever has been donated during the week. Really was impressed, and I am impressed by this.

As you said, I suppose these programs can be scammed, but I believe often the meals served and food taken home are the only good food the children will receive in many circumstances.And the people doing this are doing it because of their faith and their kindness.

Thank-you for posting this.

Unknown said...

It's sad that those few that do abuse the system ruin it for those families and individuals that are truly struggling. I'm glad your state has a system to help those families out... I would be interested to find out if AZ has something similar.
I love being able to follow you through this challenge. It's been so informative. And the recipes are fantastic. I wish I would have had a place like this to come to for recipe ideas when I was struggling! :)

Kim said...

Mary - I haven't been commenting everyday, but I'm really enjoying your Snap posts. I think it's easy to forget that many don't have the means to create a meal like we do on a regular basis. You are doing a great job at educating and raising awareness.

I also think you're being very creative with your recipes! Sometimes it's nice to revisit these simple and humble dishes.

Susan Lindquist said...

Yes, Mary. Our little church has its own 'Deacon's Pantry' and there are usually two or three months a year in which we make it the congregants' personal mission to stock the pantry for emergency needs ... no questions asked. There is very little abuse of the resource and often, folks approach our minister with the idea of making a box for a neighbor or friend who is sick that week and can't get out to shop or a family that has had a financial set-back (furnace bill, unexpected vet bill, or car repair) that would break the monthly budget and cause havoc for coming months ... food pantries are a good safety net that communities can sponsor. Another good post! Blessings to you!

What's Baking?? said...

Bless you & Hubby, Mary. I salute you for doing such a good cause. The way the system works is great. There's always the 'bad' ones that will abuse the system but then it's not something that you can control over. At least, majority will benefit from this. All the best!

Sheherazahde said...

One of my sisters is a manager at Bread of Life in Malden MA. She is really amazing. In my area I've only gotten free food from the Red Cross, although I know that there are several Churches that have food pantries. I'm lucky enough to have friends and family who help me out so I try to leave the pantries to people who don't have friends and family who can help them.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing what we take for granted - your menus make the very best of the food - sadly so many people these days don't have the cooking skills which would be of great help. It's heartbreaking that there is such a terrible need for this.
Mary x

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! said...

I work as a building manager for a low income senior complex. Many of my tenants receive both SNAP and a supplement food box. We have a program in the community where boxes are delivered, as many cannot go and pick up a box due to illness or lack of transportation. I appreciate your recipes, as I know they will taste good (I have been a blog follower for some time now) and plan on printing them out for those that might want them. Thank you.

Inspired by eRecipeCards said...

Too long of a story to get into here, short version, I am getting active in local gov't. City council same night had to vote for emergency appropriations to the local food bank AND to begin a program providing habitat areas for a Kansas bread of snake possibly to become endangered. Food bank lost, snakes won...

What a world, what a world (but we were not done yet, private donations kept the bank running through the Holidays once the news hit the papers. And the names of the snake lovers are being bandied about on local social networks, so the next election will be more interesting... but I digress)

Wonderful series


Big Dude said...

I finally got a chance to read your posts about SNAP and believe it is great you are willing to undertake such an endeavor.

Ginny Hartzler said...

We have a large food bank as well, about 20 minutes away. I think our senior center gives seniors free lunch every day, plus there is Meals On Wheels. Of course these things are only for seniors, and that leaves out everyone else!

Sue/the view from great island said...

Mary this is an incredible series of posts, I'm learning so much! Thank you for doing it.

Ellen Whyte said...

What fun! I love this sort of cooking; it's so inspirational.

And a Meowy New Year to you, Mary, and your family! Au, Target and Guido and Ellen aka De Survunt

Kim said...

I'm really touched by what you are doing Mary. Here in Quebec, there is a lot of stuff to help people. Like you know, unemployed people received something like 600$ a month... It's not a lot when you have to feed yourself, a child pay the bills... I'm not at all surprise to know that lots of these aren't able to feed themselves for all the month (just like in the US)... It's very inspirational what you are doing... Like it!

emaegf said...

Just to let everyone know the SNAP benefits that eligible families get is not nor has it ever been meant to fully fund a families entire monthly groceries. It is there to supplement them not totally replace. The program expects the recipients to use part of their cash income to make up the difference. Yes, I have experience with the program due to disability I have had to rely on assistance for twenty two years. I've taken the matter of not enough food stamps to my case worker when I was first on the program and that was what I was told. It's a help not replacement. I do well with my allotment since I do have to add from my monthly cash budget but I have made it and eat pretty well with numerous food allergies and diabetes. As you have found out it takes planning and being willing to cook from scratch your meals but it can be done.

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