Middle-class and on food stamps -- hunger problem worsens

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A piece in today's USA Today looks a lady who has a master's in psychology and then left the field to try her hand at real estate. Now she's on food stamps.

In the midst of a sinking real estate market and stagnant economy, food and gas prices have soared. That combination has led to a surge in the number of Americans relying on the government to put food on the table. And it's not the people you'd expect. According to the article, "They are real estate agents and homebuilders hit by the housing slump, seniors on Social Security, parents of students whose free breakfast and lunch programs don't solve the problem of dinner. Increasingly in recent months, they have signed up for food stamps and shown up at food pantries, trying to make ends meet."

Demand at food banks is up more than 15%, with an increasing number of clients working full-time jobs.

But it's about to get worse: as schools around the country let out for the summer, many kids who were relying on school-provided breakfasts and lunches will find themselves in a precarious position.

Many charities exist that purportedly raise money to feed hungry children. But the best way -- that involves the smallest amount of money going to advertising and bureaucracy -- is to donate to your local food pantry.

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Middle-class and on food stamps -- hunger problem worsens
The first step of any savings plan is to limit your spending. Figure out how much money you'd like to spend (per week, or per month) and try bringing only as much cash as you want to spend.
In the center aisles are all kinds of processed, packaged goods and convenience foods: bad for your budget and for your body. If you avoid going down that cereal aisle, you won't be so tempted to buy its wares.
Don't look for tomatoes in the winter, or asparagus in the fall. Buy (and eat) what's in season and you'll save big.
Don't pay attention to the overall cost of an item; think about it in 'per serving' terms (and know what your family considers a serving to be), says Cynthia Hillson. Maybe the boneless chicken is less expensive on a per-serving basis; or maybe you can make that wild rice stretch to three meals, since your family doesn't eat as much as the white rice.
If you know ahead of time what you'll be eating, you won't feel the need to run out for pizza, and you'll be less likely to make impulse buys for convenience foods.
Cynthia Hillson recommends you keep your pantry full of food items that can become nutritious meals in a snap. Planning ahead and buying expensive items (like good olive oil, maple syrup, and the like) a few at a time, or when you have extra funds, is the way to go.
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