A single mother to six children, Tammie Nadeau of Grand Forks, N.D., works hard to make sure her entire family eats healthy meals.
Every month, her family’s SNAP benefits allow her to buy the items that make healthy eating possible: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, bread and milk.
“It’s nice to eat a salad once in a while,” she says.
Because her family qualifies for SNAP, Tammie is also eligible to attend classes on nutritious eating. She has learned how to make dishes like stir fry and hummus. She’s sampled different vegetables like jicama and bok choy. In addition, she receives tokens to spend each week at the farmers market in Grand Forks.
The program is designed to help low-income households eat more fresh produce and lower their risks for many chronic diseases.
“You feel better when you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables,” Tammie says.
When money is tight, fresh produce feels like a luxury. Macaroni soup might be the best thing on the family’s dinner menu.
“You don’t always get a lot of choices about what you eat,” she says.
But Tammie’s emphasis on healthy eating has influenced her family. She and her ex-husband adopted their two youngest daughters through the foster care system. When they first moved into their home, the girls only ate french fries, hamburgers and chicken nuggets.
“They didn’t know how to eat well, so I had to teach them,” Tammie says. “Now they know what broccoli is, and they like it.”
Two of Tammie’s children are now older than 18 and living on their own. That leaves Tammie and the four younger children who need food assistance.
Tammie supplements SNAP benefits with visits to the local food pantry. There she finds a lot of processed foods, canned goods and baked goods. Once she was able to take one apple for the entire family to share.
Because fresh, healthy choices are harder to find and afford, she started gardening. Raspberries, potatoes, and herbs like sage, parsley and oregano fill the raised beds in her backyard. She even planted a small plum tree.
Without SNAP benefits, Tammie fears that her family would go deep into debt. She wouldn’t be able to take her youngest children to the numerous medical appointments and therapy sessions they need.
She knows what it’s like to receive to little or no assistance for food. That’s not what she wants for her family to thrive.
“I’ve maxed out my credit cards to eat before,” she says. “I wonder if people know it feels like to worry about where your food is coming from … especially when you have kids.”