Newark Mayor Cory Booker has decided to take the "SNAP Challenge" and purchase food with the money that would be the same as what he would get through the SNAP program. This is a challenge I think more people should try. But, there are few problems with how he is going about this.
The SNAP Program was never designed to be your only source of purchasing food. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Hence the S standing for supplemental.
sup·ple·men·tal[suhp-luh-men-tl] Show IPA
1.2.nonscheduled ( def 2 ) .
(of a pleading, an affidavit, etc.) added to furnish what is lacking or missing.
As you can see, supplemental is meant to add. The entire point of the program is allow low-income people to take their food budget and allow it to purchase healthier foods. Fresh fruit and vegetables are very expensive. Another reason that the program allows you to buy seed and/or plants to grow your own. While that is not always possible depending on where you live, but most people can at least grow herbs in their kitchens. If you think about it, herbs are very expensive, it can be over $5 for some basil or chives. Growing your own in your kitchen (which I have done) is a very good way to cut costs.
If you look at the poor in this country and what they in their households on average you will find:
Amenities in Poor Families with Children. Poor families with children have more conveniences and amenities than other poor families. In 2005, the median amenity score for poor families with children was 16. We examined all poor families with children with an amenity score of 16 to determine which items appeared most frequently in these homes.
Now, if they internet access, some sort of television package, video games, and cell phones obviously additional funds exist to pay for these items. While it is possible that the cell phone is something that comes without cost, the rest of these items will have some sort of monthly expense.
These conveniences may be considered representative of the living standards of the median or typical poor family with children in 2005. **
- These homes typically had both air conditioning and a personal computer.
- For entertainment, they typically had cable or satellite TV, three color televisions, a DVD player, a VCR, and a video game system, such as an Xbox or Play Station.
- In the kitchen, they had a refrigerator, a stove and oven, a microwave, and an automatic coffee maker.
- Other amenities included a cell phone, a cordless phone, and a clothes washer.
It is wonderful that people who have not had to experience what it is like to try to feed yourself on SNAP Benefits goes out and tries to do it. But they are not being intellectually honest if all they are spending is just the SNAP Benefit money. One of the tweets I saw coming from the Mayor said he wouldn't be able to afford coffee. Why? Now there is no way to know exactly how much the average is that poor families put into their grocery budgets of their own money, but the chances are it is at least something. If they can afford an X-Box, cable TV, multiple televisions, they are likely able to afford a canister of coffee. I don't drink coffee, so I have no idea how much it costs, but I am sure you can get one for about $10 and that would last you for a few weeks. Again, I could be wrong about that, but the cans I have seen in the stores are a good size and I would think that one can lasts for more than a week.
While I do believe that there is much talk by certain quarters that people on food assistance shouldn't be buying certain types of foods and that talk should stop. As I said the entire point of the program is to buy fresh foods, leaner cuts of meat, and all around healthier foods. Lets be honest, many people sell their EBT cards for cash. So unless they are not eating for the balance of the month, they have other sources of getting food for their families. Even with the homeless that I have worked with over the years, they have sources of income that allow them to get food on their own besides EBT and the meals that are served to them through various programs.
I respect what Mayor Booker is trying to do, but his outcome is not going to be the outcome that most poor families deal with on a monthly basis. In many ways it is a publicity stunt. Which is sad to me, that people use the poor for such purposes.
I also would suggest that the Mayor learn how to cook things from scratch, as it saves a great deal of money. A pound of flour can go a very long way if you know what to do with it. A small roasted chicken can get a single person three to four meals if you know what you are doing, and chicken freezes beautifully. The bones make great stock for stews and soups.
You see I have been very broke in my life. To the point that I had to move in with friends for a short time. I had to learn to make do with little money and learn to stretch that money until the next pay-day. So I do know what it feels like to have a limited amount of money to spend on food. I also know that it can be done if you are wise in what you purchase, cook from scratch, and have freezer bags to protect your leftovers.
The problems that we have in this country, such as what to do to help the poor, won't be solved unless we are honest about them. Only using the amount given for the EBT program to eat for two weeks isn't solving the problem, nor is it being honest about how they really live.
**Please note 2005 is last year that this information has been made public.