Education Montana Politics

The Challenge of Living on Food Stamp Assistance

Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker is drawing attention to the difficulties faced by0008 families who rely on food stamps (the SNAP program) for their nutritional needs, spending only $33.00 for a week of food:

Cory Booker has been known to run into burning buildings to save his constituents. But last Thursday, the Newark, N.J., mayor’s biggest challenge was whether or not he could get through a single meeting without taking a nibble of one Christmas cookie.
Booker, 43, and a rising star Democrat, has been living on just $33 of food over the last week as part of an effort to understand the plight of Americans who struggle to live on food stamps. The experiment ends Tuesday.
Booker has said he’s trying to raise public awareness about the struggles of average Americans amid threats of federal funding cuts to food stamp programs around the nation.

Booker not the first to try the food stamp challenge, but his efforts have certainly garnered a lot of attention.

Here in Montana, according to the Montana Partnership to End Child Hunger:

  • 14.5% of all people live with Low Food Security.
  • 20.9% all children live with Low or Very Low Food Security.
  • 125,226 people receive SNAP assistance.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which holds two weekly Food Stamp Challenges each year, explains the reality of child hunger in the United States and the benefits of participating.

I’m going to give it a shot this week and report back on my results. The average weekly assistance in Montana is $29.48, so that will be my grocery bill for the week of 12/17-12/23. The rules are simple: no “free” food from friends or family, no use of existing food other than condiments and spices.

The best part of their proposal is the suggestion that one give the amount of money normally spent on food and drink (including coffee, you junkies!) to local agencies that assist the hungry. At the end of the week, I will do the same.

As Christmas approaches, I hope you’ll consider making a donation. A gift of $29.48 seems appropriate, but anything helps. Locally, the Helena Food Share is an excellent option. Other food banks in Montana can be found here.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • Good luck dude. Since I lived in my car for 6 months, right after my first born arrived(1970’s), I know how hard it is first hand. More people, need to know what it is to live as a homeless single parent, or be on food stamps. It is a humbling experience!

      • Newbie here. I look forward to hearing how this goes for you.

        But, here’s a twist for you to consider: how on earth does a person manage on SNAP’s allowance if there are food allergies to consider? I’m gluten sensitive, and gluten free foods are horribly expensive (I doubt they are widely available at food banks, either). Even that oatmeal you mention would have to be certified gluten free ( a 2# bag costs @$5.50-6.00), or I’d end up writhing on the floor.

        I guess that leaves rice, rice, and more rice.

  • Franke Wilmer did this “challenge” during her run for the US House. I think you will find it is very hard to eat a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables on that amount of money.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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