Andra is 43-year-old paralegal who lives alone in a low-slung apartment complex near Sea-Tac airport. After her hours were cut due to the recession, she applied for food stamps and sold her car to help cover her living expenses. This happened at the same time her parents, who reside in a weathly gated community nearby, had hired a personal chef. She kept her dire financial straits a secret from them and everyone with whom she worked.

Before the project: Andra’s cupboards were barren. “It’s late in the month and my food stamps don’t kick in until the first.” She had a banged-up can of vegetables and half a bag of pasta there. Her only seasonings were salt, pepper and dried Italian herbs. She showed off a hard frozen pack of chicken thighs from her freezer, a food bank item. “I have no idea what to do with those.” For dinner, she made miniature pizza bites that she’d purchased at a grocery store outlet. Getting to a store took her two buses; to get to a food bank, it took three.

After the project: Her finances had improved with the economic recovery, but she still couldn’t afford to replace her car. She looked healthier, happier and a fair bit thinner. “I’m definitely eating better.” She no longer ate fast food picked up during her long days traveling by bus. Learning from the class we did on braising, she had not only used the packet of thighs we’d seen earlier but had started to buy them more regularly. She’d recently roasted her first chicken. “It was only me and the cats, but we all enjoyed it!” For dinner, she made eggs and a salad with a simple vinaigrette, her go-to meal when she arrived home tired.

Andra’s takeaway: “I never realized that lettuce could be so good until we did that tasting. I buy all kinds of greens now. I’ve learned that it is possible to eat well on a limited budget, but it requires knowledge that I didn’t have before.”


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