Donny Ferguson (no relation to this reporter), an aide to outspoken right-wing congressman Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) claims that people who say that the Special Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps, isn’t enough to live on are lying and that the program should be cut even further. Think Progress flagged a Stockman press release in which Ferguson said he believed that the weekly allotment of food for one person of $31.50 is too generous because he claims was able to purchase a week’s worth of food for $27.58.
“I wanted to personally experience the effects of the proposed cuts to food stamps. I didn’t plan ahead or buy strategically, I just saw the publicity stunt and made a snap decision to drive down the street and try it myself,” Ferguson said in the release. “I put my money where my mouth is, and the proposed food stamp cuts are still quite filling.”
Ferguson was reacting to the “SNAP Challenge,” in which Democratic legislators and activists are protesting proposed cuts to the newest Farm Bill, which would slash benefits to people on SNAP. To protest the cuts, people taking the challenge will attempt to live for a week on the amount of food money allotted to people who receive SNAP benefits, $31.50 a week, or $4.50 per day.
Stockman’s office called the challenge “a left-wing publicity stunt” and claimed “Democrats have been intentionally buying overpriced food and shopping at high-priced chains to make it appear the cuts go too far.”
With his $27.58, Ferguson purchased:
Two boxes of Honeycomb cereal
Three cans of red beans and rice
Jar of peanut butter
Bottle of grape jelly
Loaf of whole wheat bread
Two cans of refried beans
Box of spaghetti
Large can of pasta sauce
Two liters of root beer
Large box of popsicles
24 servings of Wyler’s fruit drink mix
Eight cups of applesauce
Bag of pinto beans
Bag of rice
Bag of cookies
Box of instant oatmeal
While a person could presumably stay alive on this grocery list, it is notably missing any fresh (or even frozen) fruits and vegetables whatsoever. The list leans heavily on starches and empty calories like heavily sweetened breakfast cereals, cookies, popsicles and sugary sodas and drinks, demonstrating, whether Ferguson intended to or not, a major cause of the array of chronic health problems faced by poor people in the U.S. including obesity and Type II diabetes.
The list contains no chicken, fish or other meats, not even a can of tuna or a cheap pound of fatty bacon. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released figures in April demonstrating that to meet even the most minimal standards of nutrition, an adult male between 19 and 50 years of age needs at least $42 to stay fed for a week.
In a blog post last week, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) wrote about the SNAP Challenge, “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. I could go without breakfast; my sons couldn’t.”
Lee called the cuts to the Farm Bill that would cripple the SNAP program “unconscionable.”
“We can’t let these cuts go through,” she wrote. “This isn’t who we are as Americans. We need to protect our vulnerable, not cut them out of a budget.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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