-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.
Ever feel like supermarket prices are going through the roof? Well, those who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Progam (SNAP) – formally known as Food Stamps – really feel these increases. And how do we know that the amount that SNAP provides is sufficient to meet a family’s food needs?
D.C. Hunger Solutions, a nonprofit here in the nation’s capital that works to create a hunger-free community, set out to answer this very question. On a warmer than usual November evening I found myself at their offices across from the Hilton Hotel near Dupont Circle participating in an orientation on how to visit supermarkets and record pricing data that can be used to compute whether the benefit offered through SNAP is sufficient to cover reasonable costs of buying food for low income families. They also want to find out if foods, especially high nutrient dense products, are equally available across the city regardless of socio-economic factors of the neighborhoods. The two staff members did a great job going over the process and then we were assigned a grocery store where we would record the prices for about 150 items.
Since I have a car they assigned me to a Giant Foods Store on Eastern Avenue up in Hyattsville, MD. I had Friday afternoon free and decided to go up there after lunch to do the inventory which we were told would take about an hour. I was to find very specific items and record the lowest available price for that size. So for example, I needed to find “Chocolate Drink Mix” in a 21.8 ounce package. After finding the right size, and who knew that 21.8 ounces is a pretty standard size for chocolate drink mix, I compared the prices of each one and determined that Nesquick was the cheapest at $5.59. Usually there is a store brand that is cheaper, but not in this case. Anyway, multiply that process by 150 and I ended up running up and down the aisles for about two and a half hours.
Despite some funny looks from those who saw me “shopping” for hours with no groceries to show for it, it was a good experience that helped me develop a greater respect and understanding of food pricing. When I got home I had to fill out an online form so that D.C. Hunger solutions could properly evaluate the data that I collected with data they received from the dozens of other stores from around the Greater Washington area.
If you would like to learn more about D.C. Hunger Solutions or volunteer with them, please visit their website.