Graduate student’s cookbook for SNAP recipients shows how to stretch the dollars allotted to low income families in an nutritious way

Last  year, Michigan Rep. Sander Levin was among 30 Democratic Congress members to take the “Food Stamp Challenge” in debating SNAP Program cuts in the Farm Bill. He made a good chicken soup, had peanut butter with white bread, tuna salad, and generally was unsatisfied throughout his month of what might be called “budget fast.” Rep. Levin recalled, “I met a woman in a wheelchair a couple of weeks ago in Michigan. She is on food stamps and many weekends she runs out of food so then she lives on bread alone,” Levin says. “Does that motivate me? Surely. You have to try to get in the shoes of people and feel what it is like to be hungry.”

Leanne Brown, a writer with a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, empathizes with those who struggle to feed themselves and their families on $126 per month — something most middle class people pay in a week, even more. But she challenged herself, and ultimately the 47 million Americans receiving SNAP benefits to make the most of a difficult situation. She created Good and Cheap: A SNAP Cookbook, which teaches people how to eat well — as in “nutritious” — on about $4 per day.

Bobbie Lewis, a columnist with, who writes about spirituality and food, reviewed Brown’s book recently

Lewis says the book is a “great source for anyone living on a tight budget.” Reflect Rep. Levin’s observation of the woman in a wheelchair, Brown admits, “there are thousands of barriers that can keep us from eating ina  way that nourishes our bodies and satisfies our tastes. Money just needn’t be one of them. Kitchen skill, not budget, is the key to great food.”

Take the suggestion of saving money by selecting unwashed spinach and washing it yourself. How about peeling carrots yourself? And advice we all could use, making a list before going to the store to avoid impulse shopping.

As we refine the fresh food distribution network and more cooking skills programs make their way into the lives of low income Americans, it’s good to know there are young scholars coming up with new ideas to teach people how to stretch reduced SNAP benefits and make the most of it — not just to be filled, but to have nutritious and satisfying experience.

Dennis Archambault is director of Public Affairs for the Detroit Wayne County Health Authority.