The average American on food stamps gets just more than $30 a week to shop, but Congress is looking at cutting that budget by 20 percent. Congressman Peter DeFazio is working to prevent those cuts by showing what shopping on food stamps is like.
To protest nutrition assistance cuts this week, twenty-six members of Congress will live off of a food stamp budget this week to draw attention to House Republicans cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Eligibility requirements for the program already leave out 50 million food insecure households, but another 2 million Americans would lose access to food stamps in the proposed changes for the Farm Bill. Currently 47 million Americans receive an average monthly benefit of $133 from the program.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) detailed her grocery plans in a Wednesday blog post:
"This morning, I went shopping for the week on the SNAP budget. Getting your budget down to $4.50 a day is complicated. You need to try to make sure you have enough protein, limit your sodium, and find good vegetables. If you have special dietary needs, like diabetes or an allergy, there's even more to think about."
"What I'm thinking about most during this trip is that I'm shopping only for myself."
"When I was a young, single mother, I was on public assistance. It was a bridge over troubled water, and without it, I wouldn't be where I am today. I spent hours debating what to buy and what to skip, all the while keeping my sons in my mind. I could go without breakfast; my sons couldn't. I went through the grocery store today thinking about what I wanted, not what my sons would eat, but that wasn't always the case. I would have bought ground beef and white bread for them, not yams, and certainly not tuna."
Unfortunately, while many Americans are still suffering the effects of the economic downturn, a top priority for Republicans is spending less money on food for poor people.
Other politicians in recent years have taken the SNAP challenge in efforts to avoid cuts to food stamps and other nutrition programs. Newark Mayor Cory Booker gained much attention when he used his national profile last December to bring attention to difficulties faced by the nation's poor in getting nutritious food by trying to eat on less than $5 a day.
Booker made appearances on the Piers Morgan Show on CNN, Face the Nation on CBS and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, and there was an endless stream of online posts. We learned about the vagaries of caffeine withdrawal, how to make meals last longer and forcing down a burnt yam when it’s all you have.