Congressman, Family Live on Food Stamp Budget for a Week

By Katie Bosland

Oct 26, 2011 3:36pm

Calling proposals to cut food stamp funding “tearing the safety net to shreds,” Rep. Joe Courtney decided one week ago that it wasn’t enough just to disagree.

For the past week and concluding today,  Courtney, D-Conn., his wife Audrey and 16-year-old daughter Elizabeth have been living on a food stamp budget, experiencing what little can actually bought for $32.59 per person, per week, or $1.59 per meal, and blogging and tweeting about the process.

The week is called taking the “SNAP Challenge” after the national food stamp program run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, that provides low-income households with healthful foods within reach out their budgets.

Citing proposals submitted to a congressional debt-reduction supercommittee to decrease funding for SNAP, as well as outspoken Rep. Paul Ryan’s, R-Wis., budget plan and the cuts it would bring, Courtney said, “People [have got] to remember we’re going through an economy with 9 percent unemployment. … When that happens, really by and large, the only public assistance that is left is SNAP.”

Courtney added that “the reality of people depending on SNAP is obvious in the near future, and going backwards is going to be … a real strain on the safety net.”

ABC News spoke to the congressman while he was on his third cup of tea this morning with the same tea bag.

Saying that the week has been “harder” than he had imagined,  he added, “You definitely learn some of these tricks to stretch your $4-a-day allotment.”

In addition to shopping at different supermarkets than usual to find better deals, he cited switching from whole grain to white tortillas for enchiladas, buying produce of a lesser quality as long as it was cheaper, and going a bit hungry just to stretch the money out throughout the week.

“It was not hard to visualize the sort of pressure, obvious need, for people who are depending on $4 a day to go to food banks and soup kitchens,” he told ABC News, as it becomes hard to stretch the existing funding as is.

However, not everyone in Congress would agree.

Just this week Sen. Jeff  Sessions, R-Ala., told ABC News on Topline that “When [the food stamp program] started it was one in 50 people on the food stamp program. Now, it’s one in seven. Lottery winners, multimillion-dollar lottery winners are getting food stamps because that money is considered to be an asset, not an income.”

It remains to be seen if the food stamp cuts proposed by the House and Senate agriculture committees will actually be included in the final proposal to be submitted by the debt-reduction Super Committee. The Super Committee’s proposal for reducing the deficit by $1.5 trillion is due Nov. 23.

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