“Good Start” Boost for Nutritional Supplement Programs

With personal and government funds tighter than ever, people must make the best use of their food dollars. Cooking at home can be much less expensive and healthier than eating out. But cooking requires basic equipment, a heat source, and a few pantry staples. These essentials are not covered by current nutritional supplement programs and may be more than some can afford.

Let’s give people who begin programs like SNAP and WIC a “good start” boost. This small additional payment empowers them to extract the most value out of the funds they receive and make the best use of their own resources. This early investment can pay off in a lifetime of healthy, thrifty meals cooked at home. As little as $20 can mean the difference between making balanced meals or eating fast food. For only $85, someone who lacks access to a stove can still cook, even if “home” is a boarding house or a residence hotel. These figures are for a family of four, but except for $4 per person for dishes and cutlery, the amount remains the same for one person as for a family of up to six. A single person could spend slightly less by getting smaller pans and a large family would spend slightly more.

This investment helps the families, their communities, and the country as a whole since it allows participants to:

  • Choose nutritious ingredients that require some preparation instead of only food ready to eat from the package (cabbage instead of chips)
  • Cook healthy meals, reducing childhood obesity, diabetes, and other health problems while improving school performance and productivity
  • Support area farmers and businesses by purchasing basic supplies and then preparing local, seasonal food
  • Reduce their carbon footprint by reducing their reliance on imported, out-of-season, and processed foods
  • Improve homeland security by supporting a more diversified and robust food system that is less easily disrupted by error, evil, or environment

Core ingredients: $20. These basic pantry items allow people to transform inexpensive, healthy ingredients into delicious meals. The items purchased would depend on personal taste and culture. The requested amount comes from the Cook for Good basics: baking powder, baking soda, yeast, corn starch, cooking oil, vinegar, mustard, ketchup, vanilla, salt, pepper, bay leaves, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin, and oregano.

Core kitchen equipment for families with access to a traditional kitchen: $55. This minimal set of kitchenware allows cooks to prepare a main dish and a side vegetable, beans and rice, pasta and a sauce, or any number of balanced meals.

  • Two pots with lids
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Strainer or colander for rinsing rice, beans, and vegetables
  • Can opener
  • Big heat-resistant spoon and spatula
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Place setting for each person (plate, bowl,cup, knife, fork, and spoon)
  • Cleaning supplies: sponge and dish towel

Heat-source supplement for families without access to a traditional kitchen: $10. This small amount would allow families without a stove to purchase two of the following instead of the pots in the core equipment list: an electric skillet, a slow cooker, or an electric rice cooker.