Lynda Fanning with the UVA Food Collaborative says she hopes the documentary gets the community thinking about the importance of SNAP benefits.
"It's a wonderful fallback. It's a safety net that I would like to be a part of this country. I would not like to be part of a country where there's no concern for that," said Fanning.
The documentary airs at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted. The film is co-sponsored with Market Central, which helps people who use the SNAP program at Charlottesville's City Market.
University of Virginia Food Collaborative
The UVA Food Collaborative holds the first of its 2013-2014 film series with a screening of Food Stamped on Thursday, October 24 at 6:30 pm at The Haven sanctuary. Food Stamped is an informative and humorous documentary film following a couple as they attempt to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet on a food stamp budget. Through their adventures they consult with members of U.S. Congress, food justice organizations, nutrition experts, and people living on food stamps to take a deep look at America's broken food system.
The film is co-sponsored with Market Central, the non-profit serving the City Market and its vendors and customers, and with Whole Foods, who will serve a meal commensurate with the roughly $1.50 per meal allocated by current "food stamp" benefits.
Although the film is from 2011, it can hardly be more timely given our politically-charged funding landscape. The US House has proposed $39 billion in cuts over 10 years in SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as "food stamps"). Funding for this program, as part of the Farm Bill, polarizes the national conversation not only about increasing poverty levels, but also the related obesity epidemic, as well as how very effective SNAP benefits are in the overall economy. While 7 in 10 voters polled are against cutting SNAP benefits, there is still a disconnect with the stance of many elected officials.
Complicating this issue is the fact that many voters are misinformed about the program, thinking of it as another giveaway to folks who choose a handout over getting a job. In fact, 76% of SNAP households have included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits. SNAP is responsive to changes in need, providing needed food assistance as families fall into economic hardship and then transitioning away as their financial situation stabilizes. SNAP participation historically follows unemployment with a slight lag. SNAP participation grew during the recession, responding quickly and effectively to increased need. As the number of unemployed people increased by 94% from 2007 to 2011, SNAP responded with a 70% increase in participation over the same period. Many SNAP recipients are working, and the majority are not on welfare.
Event coordinator, Lynda Fanning, is quick to point out "the good news is benefits have been shown to lower risk of overweight and obesity, even without restricting junk foods and sodas, and an increase in food quality. This leads to an increase in overall health, which then reduces healthcare costs. When there is a temporary boost in benefit amounts, all these parameters improved even more."
One of the main points in the film is whether a person can eat healthy on a "diet" available within a SNAP budget. While the program is designed to be "supplemental" rather than the total food budget, in many cases the supplement may actually be the total budget. Therefore, it's important to make excellent choices for nutrient richness, to stick with mostly "whole" foods, to avoid processed items that contribute a surplus of calories along with an addictive salt/sugar buzz, and little else. Unfortunately, sodas and junk food in stores are at this time still allowed, which means that educating recipients about shopping and cooking should remain part of the program; unfortunately, these efforts are on the chopping block in Washington.
Audience members are invited to enjoy a budget-friendly meal, prepared and donated by Whole Foods Market of Charlottesville, and to participate in a panel discussion immediately following the film. The panel, moderated by Paul Freedman, Associate Chair, UVA Department of Politics, includes several local community leaders who have been participating in the Food Stamp Challenge: feeding themselves on the average $1.50 per person, per meal food stamp budget. Nationally, many legislators and public figures have taken the challenge, and written about their experiences, most notably Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker and Ron Shaich, CEO of Panera Bread.
Suggested donation for the event is $3-$5 - as $4.50 is currently the approximate daily food allotment for the average SNAP recipient, though the film refers to $3. Proceeds benefit the Haven.
This film screening is being held on October 24, Food Day - a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainably-produced food and a grassroots campaign for better food policies.