Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The food-stamp diet

This is a pretty good read:

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) stood before the refrigerated section of the Safeway on Capitol Hill yesterday and looked longingly at the eggs.

At $1.29 for a half-dozen, he couldn't afford them.

Ryan and three other members of Congress have pledged to live for one week on $21 worth of food, the amount the average food stamp recipient receives in federal assistance. That's $3 a day or $1 a meal. They started yesterday.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), co-chairmen of the House Hunger Caucus, called on lawmakers to take the "Food Stamp Challenge" to raise awareness of hunger and what they say are inadequate benefits for food stamp recipients. Only two others, Ryan and Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), took them up on it.

Ryan's shopping list for the week:

Yellow cornmeal$1.43
2 jars strawberry preserves4.80
1 jar chunky peanut butter2.48
2 packages angel-hair pasta1.54
Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee2.50
3 cans tomato sauce4.50
2 containers cottage cheese3.00
1 loaf wheat bread0.89
1 head of garlic0.32
Total:$20.66


He could have added some extra calories by forgoing the coffee; I think he's going to regret that particular choice.

The story also notes the irony of eating poor: that the cheapest foods are also the unhealthiest, which is why the poor have trouble with obesity, cholesterol and other diet-related ills.

"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."

Looking at the politics of it, the stunt -- while compelling -- is still something of a stunt. The $21 a week is an average, for starters; the neediest people get more. Second, food stamps were never intended to cover 100% of food costs; they're a supplement. Third, food stamps aren't the only programs available to the hungry. There are food shelves, local food programs and private charities as well.

In addition, the lawmakers are doing this in hopes of adding $4 billion to the $33 billion food-stamp program -- which would boost that $21 weekly average up to a whopping $23.50 or so.

Still, people do go hungry, even if nobody actually starves. And the healthy-eating challenges deserve to be addressed somehow. A few bucks spent helping the very poor buy fresh vegetables now might prevent far more expensive taxpayer-provided health care down the road.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you said....food stamps were never meant to cover all of food costs. Their little stunt means nothing.

I've heard first hand stories of people using their food stamps to pay people for services, etc. In other words, many people who have them... don't really need them.

JP5

5/16/2007 10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Means nothing"? At least it did something - raised a degree of awareness for people who have virtually nothing.
Jeez, so often we hear how liberals are so pessimistic. These days it's more often right-wingers like yourself who complain and bash everyone else. Let me add hypocritical to the list of adjectives that describe partisan hacks. I have no respect for people who care nothing for the needy just because of partisan ideology.
Stunt? Maybe, but I think it still was a noble deed.
- Caracarn

5/17/2007 5:03 PM  
Blogger Not Your Mama said...

Actually there is no issue with people using food stamps for other goods or services anymore since "stamps" are no longer issued. Haven't been for many years, people are issued debit type cards with a set amount of credit on them. Unless you can convince an authorized grocer to debit your card and issue you cash you'd be out of luck.

Some of the other issues people face are things like the fact that grocers in lower income areas tend to charge the highest prices, usually 10%-20% higher than average prices found in middle class neighborhoods. Many of the people living in poor areas do not have cars and often there is no available public transportation.

For the extremely poor who are often mentally ill and have no fixed address there is the problem of not even being able to receive assistance much less be able to prepare food if they could.

I'm sure none of that would trouble JP5 though, such a warmhearted charmer.

5/18/2007 3:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh give me a break. Libs are such elitists. One Congressman doing the stunt is a Republican! But the fact remains, food stamp allotment was never meant to cover ALL the monthly food bill. And if you do have absolutely nothing, as you say, you get a larger food allotment. And I'm not at all "pessimistic" like liberals. I know that in addition to food stamps, there are churches and other organizations out there feeding the poor and there are homeless shelters and food kitchens feeding them too.

What I want to know, though, is why is it...(per Democrats and liberals) the POOR, HOMELESS and DOWNTRODDEN always seem to suddenly disappear when a Democrat is President....only to suddenly appear again when a Republican is president? Isn't that amazing how that happens? Talk about an issue being based on partisan ideology.

JP5

5/22/2007 6:40 PM  

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