June is Hunger Awareness Month. There has been much talk about food stamps in the news due to the cut backs the SNAP program faces with the Farm Bill and possibly because it is so in the forefront right now, many have taken Food Stamp Challenges.
The Food Stamp Challenge isn’t a new concept. It’s a common challenge issued by compassionate churches,food pantries and social activist groups to help people gain perspective on what it’s like to be one of the 46 million people in the US who rely on food stamps to feed themselves. It was last October that I came across Michael Nolan’s food stamp challenge and besides Sean Callebs experiment on CNN , I had never heard of any one doing this.
People willingly eating on a food stamp budget? It inspired me to blog here about what it’s like to live on a food stamp budget, more than a month or a week. And here we are. Like I said when I began, I love that people are inspired to do this. People don’t do these challenges for themselves. They are doing it to open up a dialogue about food scarcity that is essential , not only for Americans but on a global scale as well.
I receive Google news alerts about food stamps in my email daily. I’ve seen many articles over the past months that mention lawmakers who have accepted the food stamp challenge. Typically , this is the end of the story. There tends to be little follow-up on the participant and how they did or what they gained. Recently though, NBC10 in Philadephia did an excellent job covering and tracking participants of a food stamp challenge issued by Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Nutter, Congressman Bob Brady, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Annette John-Hall and Brian Gralnick of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia were among the notable participants ,with locals also making the commitment. The local news tracked participants progress and feelings during the week via Twitter and blogs.
Participants reported such things as, ““I am starting to feel a certain detachment,” said participant Mariana. “A shutting down, a sadness that’s hard to describe.”
At the end of the week, columnist John-Hall had this to say -“It was one thing to talk about hunger and be empathetic with people who are on SNAP or take a benefit.But it’s another thing to do it yourself.”
Congressman Brady started the week saying,“We’re here to prove a point.Hopefully the visibility and awareness will make some people aware.” The problem is, the people listening are almost always already aware ,or at least are very open to having this conversation. The lawmakers who participate, gaining knowledge of the problem first hand through experience are time and time again, are men and women already supportive of SNAP and will vote accordingly. They are almost always Democrats.
The Food Stamp Challenge needs to have a new face, some fresh blood to this real life hunger game. Let’s get some Republicans in on this thing. If you know a Republican, ask them to take this challenge. $35 a week per person in their house. If you’re feeling ambitious (and I hope you are), write,call AND email (all of the above, not either or) Republican representatives and encourage them to take this challenge. Well, you could also ask your Democrat Reps ,too…just to cover all the bases.
More than 46 million Americans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to feel their families. With high unemployment, record numbers of families are depending on federal nutrition programs to provide food for their children. These programs are critical in making sure all American children get the food they need to reach their full potential.
As a constituent, I am asking you to take part in a Food Stamp Challenge. For one week, I challenge you to eat as if your food budget were than of an average SNAP recipient - $1.48 per meal. The challenge gives participants a view of what life can be like for millions of low-income Americans. This experience could be beneficial as you work to authorize The Farm Bill and consider sparing cuts to SNAP.
[City, State ZIP]
This letter can be adapted to encourage politicians on a local level. Even though they may not vote on a Congressional level, their support is still needed for local supplemental food programs,too.
If you have a past or current food austerity challenge on your blog, let me know about it! If you are participating in a challenge and don’t blog, send me your thoughts. My email is on the sidebar of the blog or you can send me a private message on my Facebook Page