The SNAP Cookbook Inspires Eating Healthy on the Cheap

Recipes for eating well on $4 a day. 

Posted: 07/10/2014 01:10 PM EDT

Currently more than 47 million Americans from all walks of life depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federal and state-funded food assistance program for the poor, with 33 percent of them being African-American. And with deeper cuts to SNAP, people are faced with the harsh reality of how to make ends meet, put food on the table and somehow make sure that the food is nutritious. 

But, really, is that even possible? One new book is saying, “Most definitely.”

Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day was written by NYU food studies graduate student Leanne Brown. This cookbook, which boasts amazing images, is geared toward folks on SNAP to show them how many healthy food possibilities they can reap from their benefits. The recipes, which rely more on vegetables, legumes and fruits and less on meats, give readers a range of ideas from banana pancakes, vegetable jambalaya and, my personal favorite, green chili and cheddar quesadillas.

And while this book doesn’t provide answers for those who live in bona fide food deserts, do not have kitchens or who are homeless, what it does do is provide doable recipes that can be made with items from your local bodegas, fruit and vegetable stands and local grocery stores (no Whole Foods necessary).

But most important, Brown hopes this book empowers people.

“SNAP is extremely political. On one hand we see politicians take these SNAP challenges to show just how hard having to rely on these benefits are in hopes to increase benefits," Brown told BET.com.

“And then we hear other politicians talk about how these benefits need to be cut even more and how people on them are lazy. All of this leaves people on SNAP feeling completely pessimistic and lost. Until SNAP benefits increase, this book is about what you can do right now because everyone deserves good food. ”

And the response has been overwhelming.

Brown’s Kickstarter page had a modest goal of $10,000 to help make her downloadable version of her cookbook into hard copies for people who don’t have access to Internet, computers or printers at home. She has raised over $127,000 with more than 50 organizations requesting free hardback copies of the book for their own clients. Not to mention the hundreds of personal emails she gets from people telling her how this cookbook has changed their lives.

“Recently, a college student wrote me saying that for the first time in his life, he had to use SNAP and he thought this meant he would only be able to eat Ramen noodles. But then he got this cookbook and completely changed the way he thought he could cook and eat at home. I was in tears,” Brown says.

But it’s also important to point out that Good and Cheap isn’t just for people on SNAP, it can be for anyone who is on a tight budget, but wants to make healthy meals at home, which Brown emphasizes is one important and necessary act to be healthy.

“Cooking is such a powerful tool, and yet it’s so undervalued. Learning how to cook is one of the best things that you can do for yourself and your health. It’s one great way to control what you put into your body.”

Who would have thought that cooking could be so revolutionary?

Download your own free version of Good and Cheap here.

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(Photo: Courtesy Leanne Brown)

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