Today, four members of Congress conclude the Congressional Food Stamp Challenge, in which lawmakers chose to live “on three dollars of food per day, the same amount an average participant in the Food Stamp Program receives.”
One of the participants, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), “stuck to the challenge” even as he traveled to speak at his alma mater’s commencement exercises, bringing along his “pasta and sauce, as well as the last of my jelly, peanut butter, and bread.” After the ceremony and late for his plane, he rushed through the airport choosing not to check his bags to save time. He writes:
I step up to the metal detector, take my shoes off, place my bag through the scanner and come out the other side to the most dreaded words in travel, “Bag Check!” [...]
As the agent sifted though my bag, I tried to recount what could possibly be in there that was threatening… my mouthwash? Toothpaste? Yeah, it was those two, but it was also my peanut butter and jelly. [...]
He politely put the peanut butter and jelly to the side, closed my bag and gave it back to me. I was too astonished to talk. I took my bag and walked towards the gate thinking about the 4 or maybe 5 meals that she had taken from me. What am I going to do now? It’s not like I can just go to Safeway and grab another jar. I have .33 cents and a bag of cornmeal to last today and tomorrow.
While Ryan took the loss in stride, comforted by the fact that he could soon lift his $21/week spending limit come Tuesday, one in 10 Americans constantly live with such restrictions and “over 80 percent of food stamp benefits go to families with children.”
Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) explained that “nearly 36 million Americans” do not “consistently have enough food to feed themselves or their families.”
He added that on such a low budget there’s “no organic foods, no fresh vegetables, we were looking for the cheapest of everything.” “We got spaghetti and hamburger meat that was high in fat — the fattiest meat on the shelf. … It’s almost impossible to make healthy choices on a food stamp diet.”
You can read more about the Food Stamp Challenge and H.R. 2129, Feeding America’s Families Act HERE.