Monday, April 23, 2007

Three dollars a day

I've shared my theory that candidates for state and federal office should first have to pass something like the "Ehrenreich Test"--get dropped off in a strange town with $40 and one change of clothes, then find work, food, and shelter for a month without breaking the law or using their connections.

Well, it's a couple of months later and I haven't seen any reports yet of Clinton, Obama, Giuliani, or McCain offering to swap places for the day with some working-class soul.

But there's this interesting and somewhat encouraging story (free registration required):
Gov. Ted Kulongoski and his wife are used to eating the best their bountiful state has to offer: fresh salmon, huckleberries and mushrooms foraged from the Cascade Mountains.

This week will be different. They'll spend just $3 a day each on their meals, $42 in all, to match the amount spent by the average food stamp recipient in Oregon.

"My wife came up to me and said, 'Either you or the dog is going on a diet. I lost,'" Kulongoski quipped while announcing the food stamp challenge recently and inviting others to join.

Kulongoski and his wife, Mary Oberst, are the highest-profile people yet to take part in a "food stamp challenge," a trend sponsored by religious groups, community activists and food pantries across the country.

The goal is to walk the proverbial mile in the steps of those who rely on food stamps to feed a family, to kindle awareness and empathy.

The challenge comes at a politically delicate juncture for the food stamp program. The Bush administration has proposed several cuts, among them taking away food stamps from about 185,000 people because they receive other non-cash government assistance.

The Department of Agriculture budget, as proposed, would also eliminate a program that gives boxes of food to nearly half a million seniors each month.

The administration has proposed some changes hailed by food stamp supporters, like excluding retirement savings from income limits and encouraging recipients to purchase more fresh produce.

Kulongoski, a Democrat, plans to lobby Congress to restore the proposed funding cuts.

Interesting coincidence that the governor's adventure in living small begins the day after Earth Day. Read more about Oregon Hunger Awareness Week here.

Good luck, Governor. And keep hydrated.


Adrianne Fortes said...

I think it is important that people see what it is really like for the working poor. I am a single mother. I lived onm welfare for several years so I could get my act together and be a productive taxpaying member of society. I do not care what anyone says the foodstamps they give are not enough. I work full time now and because of that I no longer qualify for assistance, therefor I need to find other means to feed my children. I do not have the option of going to curches and the like because I work m-f 7-6. So please tell me the person that the system should be helping what I am supposed to do. Come walk in my shoes.

lotek-000 said...

It is important that we heighten awareness on this issue. For many the Food Stamp Challenge has become an adventure of sorts in order to experience the other side. However, growing up at or below poverty level has given me a different perspective on this issue.

Not only can the food stamp diet be done, it can be done in a healthy way while avoiding a menu of Roman Noodles void of nutrition.

We have begun journaling our experience in an attempt to shed light on this important subject.