Blog Post: Living on SNAP
From Thursday, June 13, to Wednesday, June 19, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) will participate in the SNAP Challenge and live on the national weekly average food stamp benefit of $31.50 (or $4.50 a day) for one week. Pocan is participating in the SNAP Challenge to shed light on the efforts by Congressional Republicans to cut $20.5 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding, which would kick 2 million people off the food stamp program and reduce access to free school meals for 210,000 children.
Today marks my sixth day on the SNAP Challenge and I’ve already learned a few lessons, like: how to stretch a box of mac and cheese as long as possible, flavor anything with ketchup, and avoid impulse purchases at the airport. More importantly: I’ve learned how living on a SNAP budget requires perseverance, precision, a little creativity, and a lot of discipline.
For the past several days, I’ve been subsisting mostly on a limited diet of Boca burgers, peanut butter sandwiches, oranges, mac and cheese, and 99 cent cups of noodles. The biggest challenge has been rationing my food to last me the entire week—which requires that I constantly pay attention to what I’m eating and how much. I’m always thinking ahead, counting slices of bread so I’ll have enough to sustain me until the end of the week. I’ve found myself negotiating and bargaining with myself—an extra orange today means one less piece of fruit for the end of the week; a few scoops of peanut butter to curb hunger pangs yesterday meant this morning I was scraping the bottom of a near-empty jar. I’m also lucky that when my husband, Phil, decided to order-in food over the weekend, he ate his meal in the kitchen away from my sight and smell.
These choices and trade-offs are nothing compared to the tough decisions millions of Americans face every day when they try to put food on their family’s table. For these Americans, SNAP is a vital lifeline. Nearly two-thirds of SNAP recipients are children, elderly, or disabled. SNAP is also a powerful tool to fight the plight of poverty in this country. Just last year, SNAP helped about 4.7 Americans lift themselves above the poverty line. We need to protect this program from cuts that could leave millions of Americans, including countless children, in severe hunger.
P.S. Many of my constituents, shocked by the statistics showing rampant hunger and food insecurity in this country, have asked me how they can lend a hand. I encourage people who wish to help to volunteer at your local food bank. Here are four food banks in the 2nd District that help Wisconsinites put food on their family’s plate:
Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin (Madison)
Caritas, Inc. (Beloit)
Orfordville Food Pantry (Orfordville)
Edgerton Outreach (Edgerton)