Lib pols use $21-a-week food stamp stunt

Lib pols use $21-a-week food stamp stunt

You may heard about a publicity stunt some liberal Congressman are doing this week of living on the $21 per week that food stamp recipients receive. I call it a stunt because it’s just not realistic.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) stood before the refrigerated section of the Safeway on Capitol Hill yesterday and looked longingly at the eggs.

At $1.29 for a half-dozen, he couldn’t afford them.

Ryan and three other members of Congress have pledged to live for one week on $21 worth of food, the amount the average food stamp recipient receives in federal assistance. That’s $3 a day or $1 a meal. They started yesterday.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), co-chairmen of the House Hunger Caucus, called on lawmakers to take the “Food Stamp Challenge” to raise awareness of hunger and what they say are inadequate benefits for food stamp recipients. Only two others, Ryan and Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), took them up on it.

I call the stunt unrealistic because of a very important word in the third paragraph of the quote above. That word is “assistance.” Another important word is “average.” The reality is that the average food stamp recipient is not supposed to be living solely off of food stamps. Most people are presumed to have other incomes, such as a part-time or full-time job, Social Security, disability checks, alimony, or something else. Every single time I have ever seen someone in line at the supermarket buying food using food stamps or the new EBT debit cards, they were buying some food using the public assistance and some with cash in hand.

That’s not to mention whatever assistance is provided by the state or local agencies or charitable groups like churches or food pantries.

In fact, one can eat pretty well on a food stamp budget as seen on the blog Rebecca’s Pocket, where she is chronicling her efforts to eat organic on a food stamp budget for a month and it’s a mighty tasty looking menu. She’s even coming in under budget!

Not to mention that there are other web sites out there that show you how to feed a family of four on $45/week! Yes, it’s not luxurious eating, but if it’s what you have, then it’s what you do. Most people in the world today and throughout history had much worse diets than even that one.

This isn’t to deny the real problem of poverty in this country, but silly publicity stunts don’t do anything about solving the actual underlying problem (especially since increasing federal allocations don’t address the root causes). They only serve to elevate the profiles and burnish the liberal credentials of the politicians asking us all to look at them as they forgo their fat-cat free meals at fundraising dinners.

Where does the tax money go?

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  • We usually feed our family of 8 on $125 a week. It’s not steaks, but we don’t go hungry and we shop at Albertsons.

  • Jan Schakowsky is my Congresswoman, and a socialist to her very core.  Perhaps I am being too kind using the euphemism, “socialist” as she has other traits not quite conducive to following the U.S. Constitution unless she has a vivid imagination in interpreting it.

    That said, it is quite possible to live on $21 a week in the Chicago area with a bit of wit about oneself. Hard, but possible.  The cost of living has struck the poor not so much in food, but especially in transportation, and things like cigarettes.  Food pantries abound and many Catholic parishes dole out public transportation cards and fast food vouchers.  No one—unless a small child or mentally unstable—should starve. 

    Social services are everywhere and funded through private and public monies.

    In 1974, I lived on a dollar a day in Chicago for a few months out of necessity.  After I paid for my rent and utilities and cigarettes (then quite cheap) plus carfare to and from work downtown, I had exactly $1.00 cash a day left over, but no food stamps.  I would shop at an independent supermarket, carefully planning all three meals (breakfast, bagged lunch and dinner).  There were days when I ate chili every night for almost a week—a good meal, by the way, with meat, beans, tomatoes and some veggies.  I made my own granola type breakfast using both toasted and raw oats and grains and raisins.  For a while I had a tom cat with me who ate whatever I ate—quite happily.

    My mom (born in 1900) grew up as a small girl in Chicago eating goose lard sandwiches on rye with some occasional supplementary assistance from her swift hand and long dress at the grocers.  She once told me that she and her sister had to shoplift now and then to eat.  She also supplemented her meals by sneaking into Saturday wedding receptions—as no one paid attention to a young girl.

    My grandmother earned fifty cents a day scrubbing out unheated warehouses for years.  And had eight children, seven of whom lived to adulthood.  And later bought and sold apartment buildings.  All of her children became successful Americans.

  • I’m not sure about his current status, but after his divorce, my brother had to live on $200 a month with all the fees his “ex” got from the divorce (especially since his alcohohism was a major factor in the divorce, and he was jobless for a few years after it, so he had lots of back penalties).

    Now, I think it’s a great idea that all elected officials in DC should be required to live off of the minimum applicable government programs.

    They should have Medicaid for their insurance, Social Security for their retirement, food stamps, etc.  It would give them some humility and lend itself to people running for office for the right reasons, as the Founding Fathers intended.

    However, the real proof that this is a “stunt” is where he shopped: Safeway.  I’ve shopped there maybe three times, all while travelling with no other grocery store nearby.

    Poor people shop at Food Lion and Wal-Mart, not Safeway.

  • I’m with JC above—We used to live in the Balto-Wash corridor and my first thought on reading this was “Now, who the hell shops with Food Stamps at the Capitol Hill Safeway?”

    The Congresspersons have also overlooked the economics of scale—A head of household with several people in it, with or without Food Stamps, isn’t going to buy 1/2 doz eggs at $1.29.  They could combine resources, buy eggs by the dozen, and have their eggs at a reduced rate with each of them eating two fewer eggs per week, but also saving money. 

    Back when we lived in the B/W corridor, the two of us plus a baby managed just fine on a weekly food budget not exceeding $50.  We couldn’t have exceeded $50, because the rents in the area are prohibitive.

  • While I have never had food stamps, I have had to figure out how to eat on tiny amounts of money – and it very doable (though not luxurious as you say).

    I agree with the bit about Safeway (Vons out here in So Cal) – here folks would go to a local grocery store where they don’t jack the prices sky high.

  • $21 huh? well, since it’s doled out on a monthly basis, thats $84/month x 4 people, that’s $256
    Let’s see, with the local prices I could break it down like this…
    25# bag of rice,      $9
    25# bag of beans     $12
    3ea 4lb spaghetti     $16
    4 cases ramen       $15
    2 cases green beans   $17
    12 cans spaghetti sauce $12
    25# flour           $10
    10# sugar           $6
    25# frozen vegetables   $30
    5# bacon ends and pieces$10
    10# onions           $6
    1# salt             $1
    10 doz eggs         $17
    15 gal milk         $40
    30# ground beef       $50
    That’s livin’ pretty high on the hog too. Eggs for breakfast every morning, bacon in the beans and fried rice, hamburger in the spaghetti and ramen.

    Of course you have to know how to cook beans and make bread, so your average congresscritter couldn’t manage it.

    It’s not like a lot of people haven’t had to do this before.

  • The real question should be what percentage of a family’s food budget should be financed by the government. If it’s 50%, then try to live on $6 a day. I don’t have any problem doing that. It’s healthier; less meat, fat, sugar, and more fiber.