This week staff members of the Greater Chicago Food Depository have been taking the SNAP Challenge – eating for seven days on just $35 – the average weekly benefit of an individual living on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps).

Over the past five days we have heard from Steven McCullough, Caroline Howe and Bob Dolgan about their experience eating for a week on just $35. All three wrote about the nutritional limitations of eating on such a limited budget – an issue faced by the thousands of SNAP recipients in our community.

Lubna Saleh, an AmeriCorps member and nutrition specialist working with the Food Depository, reviewed the staff members’ SNAP Challenge grocery receipts and found some nutritional red flags:

Lubna Saleh

“It is very important to keep a wholesome, well-balanced diet – especially fresh fruit and vegetables as well as whole grains and lean protein,” said Lubna. “When you don’t eat the recommended servings of each, you can put yourself at risk of chronic diseases over time – such as cancer and heart disease.”

Take vegetables, for instance, which each Food Depository staff member purchased. Lubna says it is recommended to eat five servings of vegetables a day. After looking over the grocery receipts, Lubna was concerned each staff member might not meet their recommended servings on such a limited budget this week This could pose health risks for a person in the long term.


“Vegetables contain important antioxidants and minerals that help our body resist chronic diseases,” she said. 

Day Five: Chief Financial Officer Don Tusek’s remaining food.

Lubna also warned about eating too many processed food items which can be more convenient and affordable,”these foods typically contain preservatives and high levels of sodium which could be unhealthy if eaten on a regular basis.”

While the Food Depository staff members are only taking the Challenge for seven days – many food insecure individuals face these same nutritional challenges week after week.

Are you taking the SNAP Challenge? We want to hear your stories.