Why I am doing #SurviveOn35 – my experience with food stamps

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First, let me answer the question: “What is #SurviveOn35″? For the entire story, read this post on FitFluential.com.  In a nutshell, 10 FitFluential Ambassadors are spending $35 per person to eat for a week. Anytime Fitness is sponsoring the challenge. The blogger to win the challenge wins $1,000 donated to the food pantry of his/her choice.

My family is getting $110 – about the same we would receive if we were on foodstamps.

Tonight as I was reading the reactions to this challenge, I came across someone speaking out against the challenge. She had some very valid points. Hunger is not a game. And people struck by poverty (or just in a hard time of their life) do not see it as fun or a game.

What she does not know, is that I know exactly what she is talking about.

Here is my story, and why I am doing this challenge.

I was a surprise to my mother. She raised me on her own for the first 4 years of my life. She walked with me in the stroller everywhere and raised me on minimum wage income.  When I was about 4, she married, hoping for a better life. He tried, and things started to look up. But their marriage was rocky and his jobs were never dependable. Within 5 years of their marriage, they had 4 kids (including me, age 9) to raise on one income – my dad’s. He worked entry-level jobs. Life was tight. Money was non-existent. Christmases we received gifts from “Jesus” (our church’s angel tree program). There were Thanksgivings where we were surprised by a knock on the door and someone dropping off a basket of holiday food. I remember summers sitting in the hot car, waiting in line for the commodities distribution.

Food pantries, church pantries – that is where I thought people shopped. For the first 12 years of my life, I thought it was normal to buy things labeled “WIC Approved.”

Then I entered middle school – the year my parents divorced and my mom worked full time to raise her 5 children on her own. I had an experience that sticks with me to this day.  My friends wanted to walk down to the local small-town grocery store and buy a soda. I asked mom for money and she handed me a food stamp bill. When I paid for my treat with that food stamp, these “friends” would not let me live it down. I was ridiculed. “Does your mom pay for your house with food stamps? I can’t believe you had to pay with a food stamp!”

I felt ashamed. And I was mad.  She never had a dime to spare for meals on field trips. I lied and told my teachers in the McDonald’s line, “I am not hungry,” as my stomach growled at the site of their burgers. I hated it. I wanted just $2 for a burger and fries! As a kid, I had no idea how hard my mom worked to make sure every penny was spent on the best food possible for her children. I just saw what I didn’t have. And no matter that she was able to feed healthy foods to 5 children on just her own income and food stamps. I would see that accomplishment later, in hindsight.

As I participate in this challenge, it is not a game to me. I am not laughing or poking fun or looking down my nose. As I shopped for my groceries, I did exactly what my mother taught me to – I bought the items on sale, bought in bulk, and purchased the store-brand. She also fed my family on lots of rice and one-pot creations – one of which I will cook for you this week.

I am doing this challenge because I want to win it so the food pantry that fed me as a child can receive the $1,000.  I am constantly giving back to it – always have. But it will give me such amazing joy to see them receive the grand prize!

Please join me on this very personal journey. I want to help others learn that it is not a shameful thing to be poor. My mom never let me feel ashamed as a kid! She rejoiced in every blessing and was always teaching me how to make every ingredient stretch. I am hoping this challenge and my story inspires you to live on less and give the excess to your local food pantry!

Written by:: Annie Shultz

Annie Shultz has written 1922 post in this blog.

She is THE Mama Dweeb :) She created this blog back in 2009 and loves to inspire and connect with others through her writing. She also loves talking, dreaming, 90s pop and country music.


  1. says

    Annie, your Mom is amazing. The thought of kids going hungry really bothers me. In our county, we have a backpack program that provides food for kids on Fridays during the school year. This food gets them through the weekend until Monday when they can breakfast and lunch at school. I wonder about those kids all summer and how they must feel with no Friday backpack. Thank you for your lovely post. It was really beautiful and makes me admire you more.

  2. says

    Wow. This brought tears to my eyes. Your mom is amazing and did the best she could and you are stronger for it. I’m enthralled by this. I don’t think it’s a game either.

  3. says

    When my parents divorced we were so, so poor. We had been poor before, but not hand to mouth poor. My mom worked as a clerk in a grocery store. She refused to get food stamps out of pride. She saw how those people were treated on a daily basis. Years later she admitted that pride was stupid. The only way we survived those lean years was my mom’s ability to stretch a buck, family that was generous with what was in their freezer, and her friends at the store that would sometimes “fudge” the sell. She never asked them too, but they did.

    I love that y’all are doing this challenge and I hope it brings awareness to this need in our country. I was looking for charities yesterday that benefit hungry people in America. I’m just so scared that my money won’t go to the benefit of the people that really need it. I guess I just need to pick one and trust God that it will help.


  1. [...] Annie of Mamma Dweeb is an amazing mom that I had fun getting to know during this challenge. CLICK HERE to read her super inspiring story about why this challenge was so dear to her heart. She’s [...]

  2. [...] Last week I included links to both Lindsay and Meghann’s blogs about the #surviveon35 challenge they were participating in. This week, Lindsay wrote a wrap up post here, while Meghann’s wrap up post is here. Is it possible to survive and eat healthy on $35 per week (per adult)? Yes, it is. Definitely difficult, but it could be done. I can say this – I’ve never been on food stamps (although there were times I would have qualified), and sometimes dinner has been a baked potato or a bowl of cereal. Eating on a truly limited budget is hard. As I read my way through some of the posts this week, I followed a link and wound up here, at Mama Dweeb’s blog. Her mom raised five kids with the help of food stamps, and her account of why she participated is very personal, and touching. [...]

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