Saturday, May 26, 2007
Congressional Food Stamp Challenge
I've been trying to decide all week whether or not to mention this. It's not directly related to Congressman Tim Walberg and the 7th Congressional District. But it is important, and this blog happens to be my little soap box. So I hope you'll forgive me for a little piece of unrelated content.
Suppose that after paying for rent, or heat and electricity, or other necessities, you could only spend $21 each week on food, or just $3 for each day. I don't tend to live extravagantly, but I know that I would have a very difficult time planning my budget to make it last all week, and I'd have a hard time eating healthy foods. With my personal habits, I know that I couldn't manage it. I suspect most people reading couldn't do it either.
Four members of the United States House of Representatives-- three Democrats and one Republican-- decided to see if they could do it, and were joined by spouses and staffers in the endeavor. It was called the Congressional Food Stamp Challenge, running from May 15 to May 21, and the participants wrote about their experience on the challenge blog.
Is it political theater? Well, yes. But it has a purpose and a valuable message. Sometimes theatrics are what it takes to get people to notice the issue and act on it.
Here's some of what they had to say.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky wrote:
Living on food stamps is not just about the food. It takes a lot of planning ahead to live on a food stamp budget, and still, even if you get the calories you need, you can’t get the nutrients. Maybe some nutrition expert can figure out how one can eat healthily on a food stamp diet, but I can’t see how it’s done. Fruits and vegetables, especially fresh ones, are very expensive relative to foods like pastas and bread....
Congressman Jim McGovern wrote:
Lisa McGovern (the Congressman's wife) wrote:
First day was kind of tough but I was so busy at work and we had an evening event so there wasn't a lot of time to eat. I had tuna and an apple for lunch. I left the house at 8am without breakfast but I won't do that again! I did drink gallons of water. Several months ago, we had accepted an invitation to a dinner event so went, but couldn't eat. At home, before the dinner, I made an egg with shredded cheese on a tortilla, ate it quickly, and made one for Jim which I wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it hot(ish). I drove it and me down to the fancy Mayflower hotel and handed the tin foil to Jim. He ate the tortilla in 5 bites and about 30 seconds. Meal over. (I wish we had bought the larger size tortillas instead of the small ones, but the small ones were cheaper. Still, it was a bad call. And there are only 10 small tortillas -- and 2 of us for 7 days, so we need to ration them.)...
As I began cooking, separating and freezing food for the week, I began to worry that we won't have enough food to get us through Tuesday. It seems there are two ways to think of this: if we want to eat healthy food, this is like a very strict diet or a semi-fast. There is strict rationing of protein and fruits and vegetables. If we want a more satisfying portion size, the only way to do it is lots of rice, pasta or beans (but we only have 2 cans of those). And that goes against what I think of as healthy on a plate (which would be 1/4 protein, 1/4 carbs and 1/2 fruits and vegetables). But it's a long time until Tuesday and we have a limited amount of the "good" stuff so we're doling it out carefully.And, of course, mistakes were made by members of Congress not used to the experience, and trying to combine their active political lives with the challenge. Congressman Tim Ryan wrote:
Sure enough the very nice TSA agent explained to me the 3-1-1 regulations for liquids. As a public service I’ve decided to link you to them. 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.
If what they went through for a week sounds familiar to you, or you have trouble putting food on the table, the USDA has online resources to help determine if you are eligible and can help you find a local office.
In 2004, 10.3 million households and 23.9 million individuals each day were assisted by the Food Stamp program. The USDA provides these statistics on their FAQ page:
In Michigan, 1,197,856 individuals received assistance in February, 2007 (the most recent month for which data is available). That's a 6.9 percent increase from February of 2006.
So what can be done to help? Well, Congressman Jim McGovern gives us some advice.
The text of HR 2129, sponsored by Congressman McGovern, can be found here. It currently has 84 cosponsors. Congressman Tim Walberg is not one of them.
Congressman Walberg is on the Agriculture Committee, and is the only Michigan representative on that committee. That committee, of course, deals with Department of Agriculture programs, of which the Food Stamp Program is one. McGovern's legislation has been proposed in connection to the farm bill Walberg has been traveling the district to talk about.
Government shouldn't provide everything for us, and it should be a challenge to get through life. But American children should not be going to school hungry, and hard-working Americans should not have to end their day trying to figure out how to feed themselves the next day.
Contact Congressman Tim Walberg. Ask him to sign on as a cosponsor, and help solve this problem.
There's now a Michigan Food Stamp Challenge from Sept. 4 to 10, I wonder if Walberg will step up to take the challenge?Post a Comment
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