In the article titled, “Speier blasts food stamp vote,” in the Sept. 20, 2013 edition of the Daily Journal, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, shared her horrible experience about doing the challenge. She shared her opinion regarding the 5 percent reduction for the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) passed by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. There is another side of the story to be told.
She took the SNAP Challenge living on $4.50 a day for food for one week. She wanted to see firsthand what it is like for food stamp recipients to survive on this amount. In the same article referenced in the first paragraph, she shared about her week on the challenge, “I can tell you it is a horrible experience.” She also stated, “You think about food constantly. You are always hungry.”
In a June 20, 2013 Washington Post article, “The ‘SNAP Challenge:’ The claim that food stamp recipients get by on $4.50 a day,” reporter Glenn Kessler wrote, “The average monthly benefit for one person is $133.44, which is where the $4.50 a day figure comes from. But note that the name of the program refers to ‘supplemental’ assistance. SNAP is not intended to be the only source of income for food.” He also reported, “According to the USDA, about 75 percent of SNAP participants use their own money, in addition to SNAP benefits, to buy food.”
I took the SNAP Challenge for the entire month of March 2012 and lived on $4.50 a day for food. I decided to make it more challenging by only eating organic food. I successfully completed the month. I had plenty of energy and was not any hungrier than usual. During this time, I did not eat any free food and managed to set aside $9 for a birthday dinner. I took time to plan my daily meals and snacks in advance and this, with some money-saving strategies, made it possible for me to move from survive to thrive. One money-saving tip is to buy in bulk with others and split the cost.
SNAP recipients receive their benefits in one transaction each month, which enables them to buy in bulk. It is more realistic, therefore, to do the SNAP Challenge for one month. Additionally, people on SNAP are usually eligible for free food from food banks.
I am willing to assist Speier and any others who struggled taking the challenge so they can go from survive to thrive.
John Bloomstine is a former food stamp worker. He is in the process of writing a book on food that is a HIT, Healthy — Inexpensive — Tasty and easy to prepare. He lives in San Carlos. He can be contacted at sourceinform@gmail.