Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Congressman McGovern Leads Fight to Increase Food Stamp Budget

I love my Congressman. Jim McGovern (the original sponsor of the House bill to ending funding for the Iraq war) is also co-Chair of the House Hunger Caucus. He and his co-chair, Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) are both eating on a food stamp budget for a week. They challenged other members of Congress to join them (here's the letter they sent out, pdf link) but only two have joined them: Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Tim Ryan (D-OH).

McGovern has a video on his blog of his speech on the House floor describing the challenge.

The average food stamp recipient gets $21 a week; that's $3 a day, or $1 per meal. I'm frugal, but I spend that in a week on vegetables alone. You can't buy fresh vegetables on that budget; most of your food is going to be cheap grains and proteins.

McGovern and his wife, Lisa, did their food shopping for the week with help from Toinette Wilson, a D.C. resident and mother of three who relies on food stamps. Wilson gave him some tips, but it was still a struggle, he said.

"No organic foods, no fresh vegetables, we were looking for the cheapest of everything," McGovern said. "We got spaghetti and hamburger meat that was high in fat -- the fattiest meat on the shelf. I have high cholesterol and always try to get the leanest, but it's expensive. It's almost impossible to make healthy choices on a food stamp diet."
Lawmakers Find $21 a Week Doesn't Buy a Lot of Groceries

Congressional Food Stamp Challenge

Congressman Ryan has posted his grocery receipt on his blog, along with this explanation of what he bought and how he's feeling:

Today I began the Food Stamp Challenge. I took the subway to Safeway, where I picked out the $21.00 of food that I’ll be living on for the next week. $20.66 bought me:

One bag of corn meal- $1.43

Two jars of strawberry preserves- $4.00

One jar of chunky peanut butter- $2.48

Two boxes of angel hair pasta- $1.54

One can of coffee- $2.50

Three jars of tomato sauce- $4.50

Two cartons of cottage cheese- $3.00

One loaf of wheat bread- $.89

One clove of garlic- $.32

Obviously, $21.00 doesn’t go too far, especially when it comes to variety. I'm starting to understand that living on such a tight budget doesn’t allow a person to get the balanced diet they need, I wasn't able to get much protein and produce was almost completely out of the question.

So far today I have eaten a quarter container of cottage cheese, one and a half peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and had one cup of coffee. It still amazes me that so many Americans live like this every day. I already notice a difference in my energy level. After only a day on this diet, I’m tired and hungry, but I’m looking forward to talking to people about my experience, and making people aware of the millions across the country who deal with this every day.

Others participating around the country:

Oregon governor Theodore R. Kulongoski:
NYTimes: Statehouse Journal
A Governor Truly Tightens His Belt

Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr., and a dozen other community leaders:
Salt Lake Tribune: Eating a week on the cheap

New York City Councilor Eric Gioia
New York City Hunger Blog: Life On Food Stamps Weighs On Councilman Gioia

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