Food stamps help a lot of people who really depend on them, and for most recipients, it's not a lot of money.
Could you survive on just $6 a day for food?
A lot of viewers are sounding off about a story we posted online, showing the harsh realities of trying to survive on a subsidized income.
So is it impossible, or is it easy?
We challenged three top chefs from the Tampa Bay area to see if they could make a healthy meal on a food stamp budget -- and feel like they're not starving.
From those who serve up fine dining to the cooks who already tiptoe around a tight budget, there's nothing chefs love more than a cook-off
The challenge we presented: make three meals for just $6.67 per day, which is the average daily budget for a Floridian on food stamps.
That's only $2.22 per meal.
Ben Guggenmos is the district chef for Hillsborough County schools. It's his job to cook on a budget.
"School meals are $2.75 a piece, and this is less than that," he says.
He spends 45 minutes at the grocery store planning this meal.
"I'm gonna do a grilled vegetable sandwich on whole wheat baguette, a little hummus spread to give it a little extra flavor, and just some sliced, fresh organic cantaloupe."
From the chopping board to the grill, he makes it all look easy -- but he definitely felt the heat from this challenge.
"It was tough, it was really tough."
Ben says he feels for folks who have to do this every day for a living. He says the challenge made him even more passionate about his job feeding school children.
"It's important that the kids that are eating breakfast and lunch with us get a nutritionally sound meal," he says. "They're probably not getting it for dinner, I can almost guarantee that."
A spanish cacciotori dish is chef Felix Piedra's answer to our $2.22 meal.
It's nothing like the seafood paella he serves up at his famous Vizcaya restaurant. But growing up in Spain taught him a little something about eating on a budget.
'Like I said, potatoes, rice, beans, can go a long way."
He says being short on the dough doesn't mean cutting out the flavor.
"I bought chicken thighs that they are very flavorful and I make them in a sauce, and that's gonna be like this comfort food, so it's like home food. It's very nice," he says.
Piedra says the hardest part is the planning.
"I spent like, almost an hour in the supermarket, planning this meal, because I would get one thing and I would do the math -- people were looking at me," he recalled.
But in the end, Piedra says this meal is good for you -- lean, healthy and good for the soul.
"It's very tasty. Home cooking…I think it's a great lunch."
From a healthy lunch to a hearty dinner, BT Nguyen has south Tampa's secret for high-end Vietnamese-French cuisine -- so this was certainly a challenge.
She went to buy ingredients at Walmart.
"So I looked like an alien in there with my notebook and taking pictures and looking at things," she laughed.
Nguyen came back with lots of good, healthy options.
"I have a pasta and mixed vegetable with broccoli, carrots, you know, very healthy."
Add in some chicken and she's got a full bowl.
"Believe it or not, it's slightly under what my budget was."
The challenge even got her thinking about a new business model.
"So during the last few weeks, I'm like okay, I can offer this in a less expensive venue and open to and available to more people," she said.
Nguyen says being on a fixed income should not be a barrier to healthy eating. It's something she's always been passionate about, even more so after this challenge.
She says you have to spend time to make the food.
"No excuses. Absolutely no excuses for you to eat badly, or you don't have time to cook for your family. This is love. Cooking is love, you know. You may not have time to spend with them but by doing this, silently, you say, I love you."
For more information about the nationwide Food Stamp Challenge, follow this link:
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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