The Congressional SNAP Challenge: What Rep. Barbara Lee Forgot


Rep. Barbara Lee

Once in a while, a politician or two tries living on the budget of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for a day, or maybe a week. This week, 26 members of the Congress will do it, in reaction to the Senate’s Farm Bill, that would once again cut the SNAP recipient budgets. The current amount that the average recipient can eat on is $4.50 a day.

I was struck by Congresswoman Barbara Lee's (D-CA) blog post on her shopping trip:

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.

Congresswoman Lee’s heart (and those of the other 25 members of Congress who took on the challenge) is in the right place, but she forgot something: She made a tuna noodle casserole part of her week's meal plan. She noted that she found a box that only required water, since milk and butter were not on her budget. Some SNAP recipients also don’t have electricity or gas. Therefore, they can not cook.

More after the jump.

In addition, food tends to cost more in poorer neighborhoods. I am not saying that only "the poor" are on SNAP — there are many people living in middle-class neighborhoods who have lost their job, and are eking out from unemployment compensation and SNAP. But if your only food source is a bodega, it is likely that a can of tuna will cost more than if you can compare prices at multiple markets from the flyers that get delivered weekly, and choose the best location. 

Having said all that, I applaud the members of Congress taking on this challenge. I wish that at least one of the members of Congress voting for the cut to SNAP would take it on also, and see how expensive it is to buy food.

Every time I write an article about SNAP, I look  at my log and see what I ate the day before, and how much it cost. Yesterday, I had three cups of coffee (58¢/cup), about a half pound of grapes ($1.50), a yogurt (79¢) and a salad from a fast food restaurant, plus dressing. I hit $4 before even figuring out the cost of the salad. I am a tiny eater, and I know that "regular" people wouldn't be able live on what I eat. Some people have no choice.

If you want to help, you could try eating on $4.50 a day, or just add up what you spent on food yesterday. And then call your Congress member. If they are participating, thank them. If not, ask why.

We have money for weapons, money for corporate welfare, tax cuts for the rich, but no money for kids who will be very hungry this summer, when they will not get school lunches. I called my Representative’s office. They wrote down my questions, but I doubt that I will get an answer. Maybe you will do better.

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