As the farm bill approved by the Agriculture Committee last week reaches the Senate floor Monday afternoon, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) will be a few hours into an experiment: eating for a week on the meager food budget afford by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Murphy announced on Twitter that he would take the SNAP Challenge, which is the brainchild of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
That means Murphy will be eating on a few dollars per day, as his colleagues debate a measure that would cut $4 billion from the SNAP budget over the next decade. Murphy is using the $3 per day allowance FRAC and allies recommended in 2007 guidelines for lawmakers interested in the challenge, although government data shows the program averaged about $4.40/day nationwide in fiscal year 2012.
But if anything, the SNAP Challenge understates the hardships actual SNAP recipients face, both today and in the near future.
Those Americans must make it a full month on SNAP, and statistics show that about 80 percent of a given recipient’s monthly allotment gets spent in the first two weeks of the month:
Additionally, there is already a major cut scheduled for fall of 2013:
It’s harder to quantify another facet of life on SNAP that Murphy’s attempt to raise awareness of the program won’t require him to face: social stigma. The senator won’t have to worry about a cashier loudly asking him to run his Electronic Benefits Transfer card again while other customers wait behind him. He probably won’t experience the judgment of peers described here by Tiffani Stacy of Columbus, TX.
Murphy’s experience of life on SNAP, however muted, ought to help draw attention to the program’s inability to absorb the further cuts Congress has proposed.