Snohomish church takes on food stamp challenge

SNOHOMISH — The Rev. Jeffery Gaustad remembers growing up on food stamps in rural Minnesota.

“I don’t remember ever being hungry, but I do remember the stigma that came with it,” he said.

Despite more families needing help recently, the stigma is still there, and Gaustad wants to fight it.

The pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Snohomish is taking the National Food Stamp Challenge. He will have $31.50 to spend on a week’s worth of meals.

That’s the average weekly allotment for someone in the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

The challenge, which runs from Oct. 27 through Nov. 4, is part of the Fighting Poverty with Faith movement. The interfaith campaign is trying to cut poverty in the United States.

As part of the campaign, Gaustad’s church is showing “Food Stamped,” a documentary film following a couple trying to eat a healthy diet on a food-stamps budget.

Many people don’t realize how difficult it is to stay healthy on that budget, the pastor said. He wants shed light on the issue.

Many families in Snohomish County are having to make those choices everyday. To help their community, Christ the King members collect groceries for food banks and grow fresh fruit and vegetables in the Giving Garden, said Diane Decker-Ihle, a master gardener in charge of the program.

The garden, started in 2008, has produced more than 5,000 pounds of food for local families.

To prepare for the challenge, Gaustad has been looking for recipes that include healthy and filling foods that are also cheap. He is getting ready to give up fresh vegetables and fruit, and eat a lot of lentils.

Gaustad knows that everything is a matter of perspective: He visited Haiti several years ago with an organization called Food for the Poor. He remembers seeing people line up for their only meal of the day — red beans and rice.

“A lot of us spend a good chunk of our income on food, and it’s not an issue,” he said. “But a lot of us have to worry about where our next meal is coming from.”

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452, kyefimova@heraldnet.com

Take the challenge

To join the Food Stamp Challenge week or learn more about Fighting Poverty with Faith, go to http://fightingpovertywithfaith.com.

Watch “Food Stamped:” 7 p.m. today at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 1305 Pine Ave., Snohomish. The film is about a couple trying to eat a healthy diet on a food-stamps budget.

Donations for the Snohomish Food Bank will be accepted. For more information, call the church at 360-568-5704.

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