June 20, 2013

Every single week, I agonize at the grocery store, trying to come up with a plan to feed my family of four that offers a diversity of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and as little refined sugars and carbs as possible. It's a struggle, because my kids see all those processed food and fast food ads on television and are just as susceptible to them as any other kid. But it's important to me that I lay the foundation for healthy eating choices now so that when my kids are older, they continue it for their own benefit.

I am admittedly very lucky, because I have the ability to go to local farmers' markets and buy organic produce and I'm willing to pay a little more to buy organic milk to keep unnecessary chemicals and hormones out of my kids' systems.

But there are more than 30 million people in the US who rely on SNAP benefits who must struggle with an entirely different calculation: namely, how to stretch the measly $133 per month the average recipient receives to purchase enough food to last the entire period.

It's not easy and frankly, it's an abomination in the wealthiest nation in the world that we have seniors and families trying to feed themselves on roughly $4.50 a day. To protest the latest round of austerity cuts demanded by the Republicans, Democratic representatives in the House took the Food Stamp Challenge to show how difficult it was.

But you had to know that some Republican would try to prove that SNAP benefits are totally easy to get by on. Donny Ferguson, Rep. Steve Stockmans(of the armed fetus bumpersticker fame idiocy) Communication Director, took the Food Stamp Challenge and claims he was able to feed himself for a week just fine on $27.55, a full $4.00 below the $31.50 limit.

“I wanted to personally experience the effects of the proposed cuts to food stamps. I didn’t plan ahead or buy strategically, I just saw the publicity stunt and made a snap decision to drive down the street and try it myself. I put my money where my mouth is, and the proposed food stamp cuts are still quite filling,” said Ferguson.

“We can cut the proposed benefits by an additional 12.4 percent and still be able to eat for a week,” said Ferguson. “Not only am I feeding myself for less than the SNAP Challenge, I will probably have food left over.”

What food is left over at the end of the week will be donated to a food bank, along with the $3.92 Ferguson had left over from the $31.50 SNAP Challenge figure.

Ferguson did not pre-plan his shopping or use a shopping list. He did not use coupons our other discount programs. He simply drove to a nearby shopping center that is also served by the Metrobus system after seeing liberal members of Congress claim they couldn’t feed themselves on proposed SNAP benefits.

“Not only did I buy a week’s worth of food on what Democrats claim is too little, I have money left over. Based on my personal experience with SNAP benefit limits we have room to cut about 12 percent more.”

Well, isn't Donny Ferguson a clever little shopper? Actually, not so much. A quick look at his shopping list shows a decided lack of fresh produce and moreover, a reliance on exactly the kind of processed and junk food that studies show lead directly to obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and a host of other health issues.

For $21.55 Ferguson purchased at Dollar Tree:
Two boxes of Honeycomb cereal
Three cans of red beans and rice
Jar of peanut butter
Bottle of grape jelly
Loaf of whole wheat bread
Two cans of refried beans
Box of spaghetti
Large can of pasta sauce
Two liters of root beer
Large box of popsicles
24 servings of Wyler’s fruit drink mix
Eight cups of applesauce
Bag of pinto beans
Bag of rice
Bag of cookies

For $6.03 at the Shoppers Food Warehouse next door Ferguson bought a gallon of milk and a box of maple and brown sugar oatmeal.

So yes, for a week, it probably won't kill Ferguson to rely on root beer and canned beans and rice, but he selected a high carb, high sugar diet with no critical nutrients from fresh produce. That kind of diet is not healthy on a sustained basis. For children, this is exactly the kind of diet that will stunt brain development and cause life-long obesity issues and the attendant health issues surrounding it.

But I doubt Ferguson has enough empathy development to care while he crows about "beating" this "liberal stunt".

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