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26 Lawmakers Live Off Food Stamps to Protest Republican Cuts

26 Lawmakers Live Off Food Stamps to Protest Republican Cuts

Written by Rebecca Leber

Twenty-six members of Congress will live off of a food stamp budget this week to draw attention to House Republicans cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program’s eligibility requirements already leave out 50 million food insecure households, but another 2 million Americans would lose access to food stamps in the proposed changes for the Farm Bill.

The SNAP challenge means that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and 25 participating members must try to live off of under $4.50 per day for food and drink.

Lee detailed the tough decisions she made grocery shopping — butter and milk were outside her budget and a McDonalds value menu item will count as her midweek break — in a blog post. “What I’m thinking about most during this trip is that I’m shopping only for myself,” she wrote, comparing the difficult decisions now to when she needed public assistance as a single mother. “When I was a young, single mother, I was on public assistance. It was a bridge over troubled water, and without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I spent hours debating what to buy and what to skip, all the while keeping my sons in my mind.” Many Americans receiving SNAP benefits are under 18 years old and live in working households.

On Wednesday, the participating Democrats chronicled their trips to the grocery store, where they poured over coupons and attempted to buy a week’s worth of food for about $30.

Other officials have attempted to live off of food stamps for short periods of time. Newark Mayor Cory Booker took the challenge earlier this year. When Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton participated in the challenge, he found he was “tired” and it was “hard to focus” by day four. “If I were doing this with no end in sight, I probably wouldn’t be so pleasant,” he wrote. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who recently participated in the SNAP challenge, found “I’m hungry for five days…I lost six pounds in four days.”

Compare these reactions to the arguments made by conservatives, who pan food stamps as government dependency. “Unfortunately, the rapid growth of this program has only increased dependency on government and added to our federal deficit,” 25 Republican members wrote in a letter Tuesday. Last Thanksgiving, a Fox News host joked she would look “fabulous” on a food stamp diet.

This post was originally published at ThinkProgress

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255 comments

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11:44AM PST on Jan 25, 2014

One week isn't enough. They can live off their fat for some of that. They probably mean well but a s GGma Sheila D. writes,
" It won't give them any idea what we have to live on because they will still have their nice cars, credit card for gas, and nice homes in nice neighborhoods. They have their gas, electric, etc bills paid and don't have to play the rob Peter to pay Paul game. Their neighborhoods are safe, well-lit and I can't see their neighbors being drug addicts, or dealers. No drive-bys that shoot and kill innocent children in their own homes." Publicity innit?

8:45AM PST on Nov 21, 2013

Alexandra,.. have you ever been to a food pantry or food bank? The statistics are PHENOMINAL! In the past three months, the increase in people showing up needing food has TRIPLED! One of the biggest food banks in Albuquerque is actually having to close its door on day a week because it is costing them $22,000 PER DAY to feed families. They can no longer afford this operation cost.

While Republicans are sitting pretty and eating well, the American public, as you said is going hungry! What's disturbing is that our government is allowing for MORE AND MORE illegal alients and middle eastern people to flee their countries to come to America to live better lives. Mind you, the leadership of these foreign countries are not starving! You gotta know that!

I think it's high time that our government demand financial support from the governments of these foreign people wanting to live in the U.S., that which will contribute to balancing out the financial need to keep the U.S. afloat verses having to depend on "Entitlement" programs. Seriously! What makes it right for illegal aliens and foreigners who have NOT paid taxes into the American treasury system, ENTITLED TO ENTITLEMENT PROGRAMS? More so, American jobs?

Republicans living off of food stamps for a week is nothing but a patronizing facade while allowing for Pro Amnesty and a "Welcome Mat" for American deprivation!

6:24AM PST on Nov 21, 2013

What planet are these Republicans living on?? They KNOW how many people are starving
(in what is called the richest country in the world!) and they respond with plans to starve even
MORE of us!! Are Republicans required to undergo a lobotomy before they can join the Party?

9:45AM PDT on Oct 16, 2013

Looks like I'm a few months late to this discussion :)

Just wanted to add that: True compassion does not require walking in another's shoes. Compassion is something you either have or don't.

What one gains by walking in another's shoes is just some knowledge/understanding they lacked before.

4:57AM PDT on Jul 14, 2013

$19.00 a month on food stamps. Congress , try to live on this!

5:41PM PDT on Jul 7, 2013

Politicians living off food stamps for a week IS NOT ENOUGH! How about lnot only living on $16 per month food stamps, and then schlepping to food banks for 6 months to a year. THEN LETS SEE HOW HEALTHY AND FULL OF MORALE THEY ARE!

3:54AM PDT on Jul 7, 2013

I applaud all 26 members of Congress who are participating in this. Thank you!

8:13PM PDT on Jun 26, 2013

Very commendable act! Good on them!

4:51AM PDT on Jun 25, 2013

For one thing, food stamps were supposed to be a temporary supplement not a permanent feeding program. These programs were supposed to be a hand up but have turned into a hand out. I know several people who are actually receiving snap benefits and they eat very well on the amounts they receive.

Another point...I read another article about this and there were republicans who did the same thing and they actually ate very well, with money left over. It's all in how intelligently you shop.

5:07PM PDT on Jun 23, 2013

It's a bit too little too late kinda thing. First, I want to know how to get $4.50 a day in SNAP benefits. I am on Social Security - get less than $10,000/yr. Break that down. I do NOT get $4.50 a month in SNAP benefits.

I give these Congress men & women an A- for the thought but a C for trying - for one week? It won't give them any idea what we have to live on because they will still have their nice cars, credit card for gas, and nice homes in nice neighborhoods. They have their gas, electric, etc bills paid and don't have to play the rob Peter to pay Paul game. Their neighborhoods are safe, well-lit and I can't see their neighbors being drug addicts, or dealers. No drive-bys that shoot and kill innocent children in their own homes.

Yah, it's a too little too late kinda thing.

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