by Yvonne M. Glasgow
It is said that the economy is rising back up from the recession we Americans recently suffered, but many of us remain anxious over money. Many people have lost their jobs, had to take jobs with less pay, or went through a process of reinventing themselves. With this, new anxieties have arisen concerning how to feed our families and ourselves. And it isn’t just about food, it’s also about healthy eating. Healthy eating involves fresh produce, lean meats, raw foods, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low fat and no fat foods, like dairy. Fatty foods, fried foods and over-processed foods often cost less than healthier alternatives. How can someone on a limited income eat right and still have money to live on?
As a struggling freelance writer, I live on a limited income. When I have no gigs, we basically live on one income in our household. In order to survive, the first step toward being able to release some of our anxiety and eat better was to visit our local Department of Social Services. DSS is run by our state Government, charged with helping people with low incomes. Not only does it help with food, but it can also help with child care and cash assistance. People on a limited income can get help with grocery costs from DSS through the CalFresh program. This program adds money to a debit card each month, which can be used to purchase groceries. You can find more information on this program through CA.gov. The program doesn’t supply you with enough money to fill your cupboards each month, but it does try to take some of the burden off your shoulders by supplementing your food budget with this free money. It remains your responsibility to make healthy choices when shopping.
Some churches host food pantries where low income families can get food. These programs often make sure to provide items from each of the food groups. You may get a ½ gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, meat, canned fruits and vegetables, and a box of cereal or some other grain. Ask at churches and at your local DHS office to find out about food pantries, food banks, and food trucks in your own area. They usually happen once a month and you’ll need to sign up in advance.
Another great place to look for healthy foods at a lower price are local farmer’s markets. Vendors there offer fresh meats,vegetables, fruits and baked breads, as well as other items. Because the foods come direct from the farmers and producers, you get them at a relatively low cost. You are also getting fruits and vegetables while they are actually in season, which gives you confidence they haven’t spent long periods traveling across country to get to you. The Original Farmer’s Market, located at Third and Fairfax in Los Angeles, is open every day, open rain or shine, except for Christmas and Thanksgiving. It is a huge outdoor market that is home to fresh produce, homemade delights and so much more, all at lower costs than your regular grocery store. Find other farmer’s markets by searching city websites.
For anyone who who needs help or advice and can’t afford to pay for it, whether or not you are a citizen of the United States, the best place to go is a church. Churches offer counseling, and advice in ways to help yourself. They will be able to point you in the right direction, whether you are looking for childcare, food or shelter. They do this for free, to help their communities.
You don’t have to let anxiety consume you. Ask for help. Often you will find you have friends and family willing to help pay for your groceries. If you have found no help from DSS or local churches, use the internet to search for other places that can assist you. As for making healthy food choices, the United States Department of Agriculture has all the information you need. Using the USDA’s MyPlate system, which is free, can help you figure out the best diet plan for you. Through choosemyplate.org you can make a meal plan to fit your lifestyle. If you are underweight, it can aid you in gaining weight. It can also help you lose weight or maintain your current weight. You can learn how much of each food group you need for your age and activity level, too. There are many resources out there to help those with low incomes. You just need to take the time to look for them.