'I'm Hungry All the Time'

New York City councilman uses food stamps ends up cranky, hungry and bloated.

ByABC News
May 17, 2007, 5:29 PM

May 17, 2007 — -- New York City Councilman Eric Gioia is being written about in virtually every New York City newspaper this week.

The Queens Democrat is the subject of so much attention not because he's announced he's running for president or because he is pushing through a piece groundbreaking legislation, but rather for putting his money where his mouth is -- literally. Gioia is participating in the national food stamp challenge.

On May 10, Gioia put himself on a weekly food budget of $28, the average food stamp allotment for a single recipient. Do the math, and that comes out to a little more than $1 for every meal. Now on the final day of his week-long challenge, Gioia, to be frank, is hungry.

"It's been terrible," said Gioia of his food stamp experiment. "I feel lousy. I'm tired, irritable. I'm hungry all the time, and I just don't feel like myself."

Like roughly half of the U.S. population between the ages of 25 and 60, Gioia quickly discovered the near impossibility of surviving on the $28-per-week quota.

In his first trip to the grocery store at the start of the challenge, Gioia walked away with a supposed week's supply of food: two loaves of white bread, processed cheese singles, Ramen noodles, peanut butter and jelly, pasta, tomato sauce, a cucumber, a bunch of carrots, six ears of corn, seven bananas, five oranges and a stick of butter.

Reflecting on his supermarket purchases, Gioia said he ignored nutritional content as well as brand names and simply looked for the cheapest items on the shelf.

"Within a half hour of being in that store, I was no longer looking at calorie content. I wasn't looking at fat. I was looking at the price tag," said Gioia. "What I learned so quickly is that when you walk into the store and you only have $28 to spend for the entire week, the choice has been made for you before you even walk through the door. You've got to pick up the circular, find out what's on sale, and make the best deals you can."