Wednesday, September 05, 2007

ICPJ Michigan Food Stamp Challenge

There was a piece on Michigan Radio yesterday morning about the Michigan Food Stamp Challenge, which is taking place from September 4-10. It is billed as a way to raise awareness of the small amount of money that food stamp recipients get to live on, by challenging people who are able to live on more to try using less for a week. I am not able to do this this week, but I intend to try it in a few weeks. According to the Challenge web site, the average food stamp recipient gets $21 a week in food vouchers - less than most of the olive oil at Zingerman's.

I have thought about this in the abstract, but to truly try to visualize what it must be like to live on $3 a day (assuming that it is your sole source of food money, which I do not have insight into) is enormously difficult - but hardly as difficult as doing it. I and most people reading this are so used to consuming - if I want a bread, I buy a bread. Most food purchases don't seem to be a major strain. You just saw the post about that cheeseburger.

If the only goal were to raise awareness, I would say that the Challenge is working for me before I take it. There is a more pressing goal for people receiving aid though - Congress will be voting on proposed cuts to the food stamp program in October. I hope we can agree that even with a budget deficit, a troubled housing market and pockets of severe unemployment in the US (including Michigan), asking people who are living on a $1 a meal to live on less is simply too much for a just society to contemplate.


Jeremy said...

When you only have $21/week to live on, you eat a lot of Mac and Cheese and drink a lot of Kool-Aid.

Believe me, been there, done that.

Chuck Warpehoski said...

As someone taking the Challenge, I've learned 3 things:

1. Calories are cheap, nutrition is expensive. As Jeremy says, you can fill your belly on mac & cheese and Kool-Aid, but it won't be good for you. It's hard to eat a healthy diet on $1 a meal.

2. Everything takes longer. I'm eating pretty healthy with beans and rice, but those take a long time to cook. And shopping took an hour, twice as long as normal.

3. Being poor is isolating. I'm turning down social and professional events left and right because it's not in the budget. Now, when I say why, people understand. There's no stigma. I'm lucky that way. But if I really didn't have the budget, I'd be making up excuses and cutting myself off from community. Not good.