4C- What’s for Dinner? Research Paper Overview

4C- What’s for Dinner? Research Paper


How easy is it for a single mother with three kids and a low wage job to put healthy food on the table? This activity will give you a chance to “get into” poverty like you’ve hopefully never had an opportunity to.


  • None

Additional Readings

  • Some 38 million people in America are considered “food insecure” — they have trouble finding the money to keep food on the table. This 4 part NPR series profiles families who have faced hunger in three different settings: rural, suburban and urban America.
  • An Informative, interesting, and up-to-date video regarding food stamps: VIDEO / Making America Stronger“Making America Stronger commemorates the 30th anniversary of the of the reforms achieved by the Food Stamp Act of 1977 by telling the story of how food stamps dramatically reduced the extent of severe hunger in our country, how they continue to help Americans in need, and how this essential program can achieve still more.”  And here is a short podcast that gives 2009 (November 29) updated information regarding food stamps. The interview by Michelle Bazie with Stacy Dean:

Assignment Instructions


Select one profile from the list below that you will use to plan a week’s menu. You may NOT choose a profile that reflects your age or situation.

You must choose ONE profile, you can NOT mix and match family compositions. You will need to create background information on the profile you choose as a below poverty line family and also an average family.

For example, if you choose profile one – elderly person over the age of 70 – then you will first need to describe a low income 70 year old person and second an average income 70 year old person.


  • #1 = One elderly person over the age of 70 (widowed or divorced, male or female) living on their own.
  • #2 = Single mother of 3 school age children, their ages need to be between 7 – 12 (keep in mind child care considerations).
  • #3 = Family of 4: mother & father and 2 children ages 2 – 4 (children are not on formula or breast milk).

The profile you selected will place you in an economic situation. Once you’ve chosen your profile that you will be using, identify and describe further the family/household in your post.

You will need to present TWO descriptions:

  1. Needs to be a low income family (at or below poverty line)
  2. Describe how the same profile you chose would look like for an “average” family (above the poverty line).

You will need to specify:

  • Ages of each family member (if children are in the family you will need to discuss child care options)
  • Place of residence (city/state and type of housing)
  • Type of employment for the adults
  • Monthly expenses (utilities, water, garbage, Internet/cable, rent/mortgage, car payments or bus fare, car insurance, cell phone…)
  • Identify any government assistance they would qualify for (SNAP, WIC, SOCIAL SECURITY, HEAD START, FREE SCHOOL LUNCH, TANF, MEDICARE, MEDICAID)
  • Any additional background information you want to provide.

For example:

Budget Profile #1 – below poverty line

Monthly Income/ Assistance:

Job: Waitress: $10/hr, avg. 6h/d, 5 days/wk $1,200
SNAP: (USDA, 2016) $511
Child support Receives No Support
Free School Breakfast & Lunch Program, includes snack after school during program:
(FRAC, 2015)


Monthly Expenses:

Rent: 2bd/ 1ba – 800sq ft
(Rent.com, 2016, 4717)
Electricity: $100
Bus: (Pierce Transit, 2016) $72
Cell Phone: Pay as you go
(AT&T, 2016)
Health Insurance (Medicaid): $0
Food: $297.96
Clothing: $50
Miscellaneous: $50


Total income (Job + SNAP): 1,711.00

Total expenses: $1,259.96

Remaining money left over: $451.04


Be as creative as you like with the family composition and descriptions, but do not be far fetched (i.e. you CANNOT say that the mother of 3 children works at a boarding school so they don’t pay any rent and they eat in the school cafeteria so there are no food costs involved).

You need to cite where you came up with your budget numbers (ie. Cite typical salaries for jobs, cite apartment rental rates, cite the cost of what a city bus pass goes for in the city your profile person lives in).


Develop 2 menus for meals for one week. You will need to provide menu plans for Monday through Sunday for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Remember to include snacks during the day, and drinks at each meal. You need to account for and feed each family member (ie. You can’t just say you are going to skip a meal to save on costs).

  • One set of menus should reflect what you would consider to be acceptable meals for an “average” family/household
  • The second set should reflect a low cost, but nutritious and well-balanced diet (meaning you can’t serve them Top Ramen everyday). You allowed to use leftovers for one additional day, but please use a variety of meals that cover the 5 main food groups in your menus.
  • Keep in mind the poverty line. The 2019 poverty levels can be found at:
  • Don’t spend more than your family actually makes in a week.
    It is acceptable to allow the low income family to use SNAP (food stamps)

    or if they have children under the age of 5 to use the WIC programand for their children to be enrolled in the Free School Lunch program


IF you use any of these assistance programs you must cite them in your paper and reference page.

Remember to create well balanced menus, refer to the MyPlate program from the USDA which encourages Americans to eat from the 5 food groups: Fruit, Vegetables, Protein, Grain and Dairy.



From your menus, develop 2 shopping lists for food for the week which contains all the needed items to cook the foods in your menu, one for the average family AND one for the poor family. (You may assume that a few staples, such as salt, pepper, other condiments, flour and sugar are already available.) Include all food and all beverages in your shopping lists.


Now, go to a local grocery store and price the items on your lists. If you cannot get to a local grocery store, you may go online and price the items on your list (such as Safeway.com, but remember online prices tend to be higher). Itemize the cost of each item on your shopping list (ie. 12 oz can of green beans = .89 cents), and then total the costs to arrive at a grand total food cost for one week for EACH menu. Please include the grand totals for both shopping lists.

  • DO NOT incorporate Excel tables into your file.Just submit one Word document (.doc) or (.docx)


Section 1:

Background information on both the “low income”  family and the “average family”. You must include a monthly budget for both  families (i.e.. rent, utilities, insurance, car or bus cots, etc.) You will describe how the family came to be in the situation they are living in. Discuss type of employment, education, housing, transportation means and assistance programs they use.

Section 2:

Develop 2 menus for meals for one week and 2 shopping lists. Need to take into account: choice of stores, use of coupons,  co-ops, warehouse stores, eating out, WIC, Free School Lunch Program, Food Banks

Please create your menu in a chart form, (here is an example of one day, you will need all 7 days of the week):



Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snack
  Monday ALL:

Pancakes, OJ, yogurt, grapes

Mother: Salad, smoothie drink, turkey sandwich, chips

(Children eat school lunch)


Mashed potatoes, milk,

Polish kielbasa, peas, cookies



Section 3:

Describe 4 ways in which the two menus you developed were different from each other (besides the obvious cost differences).


Describe 3 hardships (ie. transportation, food deserts, or storage of food) that these families face when shopping for food.

Section 4:

Discuss 3 influencing factors that can impact the food bill (i.e. gender, race, economics, family structure, or sociological impacts)? You must cite empirical research to support EACH of your THREE influencing factors.

Section 5:

What has participating in this activity shown you  about the realities of providing food on a limited budget?

Section 6:

Reference page


Your paper must include all 6 sections:

  • Provide a discussion of the 2 profile families background and budget. You can give each family a different name, but the family structure must remain the same (ie. If you picked profile #2 – then the low income family must be single mom with 3 kids ages 7-12, and the average family must also be a single mom with 3 kids ages 7-12, you cannot mix and match family structures).
  • Provide 2 menus (“average” and low income family)
  • Provide 2 itemized shopping lists for each purchase for both families (with totals)
  • Answer the required questions in sections 3, 4 & 5.
  • Cite within your paper and include a reference page in proper APA

Grading Criteria

Describe 2 profiles (1 page)

Include: a monthly budget, how the family came to be in the situation they are living in, type of employment, education, housing, transportation means and assistance programs each family uses.

Create 2 menus & shopping lists (page length can vary on how you create your menus and lists)

Include any of the following: choice of stores, use of coupons,  co-ops, warehouse stores, eating out, WIC, Free School Lunch Program, Food Banks

4 ways they differ AND 3 hardships

(2 pages)

3 influencing factors (must be supported with empirical research) and what you learned (1-2 pages)

APA style in paper and reference page 3


Check out these helpful links on citing APA:

Evaluation Criteria

  • Describe your profile family
  • Include 2 menus for a whole week (Monday- Sunday) for an “average” family and a “low income family”
  • Provide 2 itemized shopping lists for both menus (with prices for each item and totals for the week’s menu).
  • Include headings for the 5 sections of your paper and address the required elements in each section.
  • Your posting should demonstrate an understanding and application of the reading materials.
  • Use the Critical Thinking Rubric (CTR)as a guideline for your own posting
  • You must include all the citations you referred to in your paper in the reference page, it should appear at the end of your paper.
  • You will not be required to make any response posts for 4C.

A Few Additional Tips:

  • Yes, it is OK to use tables in your paper. I prefer you only create tables in your Word files (please avoid sending Excel spreadsheets).
  • You should NOT be using your own personal family as the profile family. You should be creating “pretend” families and making menus to feed them nutritionally for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner for 7 days.
  • Yes, you can state that the kids in your “low income family” receive benefits from the National School Lunch Program (you will still have to feed the parent/s lunch). If your “average family” children buy school lunch you do have to record it on your menu and account for the price in your shopping list.
  • I specifically don’t give exact amounts that students have to spend on their profile family’s food budget. I really want you to decide how much you think a family needs to sustain themselves within a limited income or living below the poverty line.
  • This assignment is worth 40 points.
  • Click on this link for some excellent questions you may want to be asking yourself when preparing a week’s menu.


  • I will NOTaccept plagiarized papers – you must give credit where credit is due to the authors of the research you used in your paper.
  • You must cite your references in your paper and then list them in the reference page using APA style with “Hanging Indents” (refer to this helpful video on how to create proper hanging indents: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2isPBlRk048
  • Papers need to be double spaced, 1″ margins, and Arial 12-point font. The reference page also needs to be double spaced, meaning each citation is double spaced (not single).
  • If you use a direct quote, put quotations marks around the quote. Always include (Author, year) when citing throughout your paper.
  • Do not include the url as a citation. If no author is given, use the first words of the article title in place of the author’s last name, then the year of publication.

Preparing File for Submission

Save your assignments as a (.doc) or (.docx) file. If you are using any program that saves files automatically with a differnet extension (other than .doc, .docx or .rtf), you must choose to save as file type Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) or Rich Text Format (.rtf), I cannot open. WordPerfect files will NOT be accepted.

Include your own name in the title of the electronic file for identification purposes, for example “JaneDoe4C.doc” and do NOT use any spaces, punctuation, or special characters in the file name. After completing the assignment, submit it for grading using the assignment drop box as indicated below.

Additional resources for 4C term paper:

Helpful calculator for “what’s for dinner” paper

Can You Live on the Minimum Wage?

Hunger game: Reporter tries food stamp challenge
Reporter Mikel Livingston tried to live one week on a SNAP budget.

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide free or low-cost health coverage to millions of Americans, including some low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

USDA website that details healthy reasonably priced menus that include recipes (including vegetarian)

Online grocery shopping

What happens when you eat Top Ramen?

Car prices

Eligibility | Food and Nutrition Service. (2016).

Cost of Living in Seattle, Washington. (2016).

King County Housing Authority >Find a Home> Subsidized Housing. (2016).

Low Cost Internet, Computers & Smart Phones-Community Technology | seattle.gov. (2016).

USA TODAY. (2016). Cost of feeding a family of four: $146 to $289 a week.

Salary Genius

On our site you will find a large collection of salaries along with the best most accurate data our team could put together.We have over 10,000 salaries. Our data uses base salary information, census data and vast user input to provide the most accurate data we have available.

Recipes on a budget


Hardship ideas:


Here’s a great resource for influencing factors on food choices:

The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) (2016)

It is still possible to eat healthy foods on SNAP


Healthy Foods under $1


My Plate menu planning


10 Strategies To Help Busy Parents Get Food On The Table






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