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Schakowsky Living on Food Stamps, Raising Awareness

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on May 17, 2007 2:00PM

Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, along with Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), will be cutting way back on grocery shopping this week as part of the Food Stamp Budget Challenge,which started on Tuesday. For a week, Schakowsky will live on approximately $1 per meal. This number is based on the FY05 average monthly benefit of $94.05 for people on the Food Stamp Program. McGovern and Emerson challenged all of the House of Reps to participate; only Schakowsky and Ryan took them up on the challenge.

2007_5_foodstamp.jpgMore than 25 million Americans receive food stamps, and as Schakowsky discovered on the first day of the challenge, it isn't an easy life. "I couldn't afford the mayo," she said as she ate canned tuna on white bread. Her compatriots' lunches were similarly lacking; McGovern ate a bowl of home-cooked lentils, while Emerson's salad consisted of iceberg lettuce and not much else.

"I have managed to stay within the budget, but I only have to do this for one week," Schakowsky said. "I can only imagine how difficult it must be to live like this every day of your life.” Especially difficult for the participants in the challenge was finding ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into their diets on such a limited budget.

Said Ryan on his blog: "Obviously, $21.00 doesn’t go too far, especially when it comes to variety. I'm starting to understand that living on such a tight budget doesn’t allow a person to get the balanced diet they need, I wasn't able to get much protein and produce was almost completely out of the question."

Want to learn more about what the experience of living on $3 a day? McGovern and Ryan are both blogging about their experiences. While we admire these four politicians for their work in bringing awareness to the absolute ridiculousness of the Food Stamp Program in this country, their experiences are nothing compared to the millions of people who have been living on food stamps, not for weeks, not for months, but for years. Hopefully the four participants will end their week not by chowing down on a juicy steak and glass of wine, but by changing the ways the Food Stamp Program operates in this country.