On November 4, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and eight of her Democratic colleagues ended their week-long "food stamp challenge." During the challenge, the congresspeople maintained a $4.50-per-day food budget to better understand the situation of those in the food stamp program, which delivers an average weekly benefit of $32.59. (The program was officially renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in 2004.)
"There are a lot of myths associated with food stamps," including "the argument that it is rife with fraud" and the idea that beneficiaries are shiftless, said Speier. "Many of those who are on food stamps are the working poor. I really feel strongly that unless we walk in the shoes of someone on food stamps, we have no idea. I had no idea, I really didn't."
The food stamp challenge highlights the realities of a program in peril and serves as a necessary corrective to the narrative promoted by today's ultra-conservative Republican Party. The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece calling SNAP "a magnet for abuses and absurdities" and a "conspiracy against self-reliance." In March, the powerful House Agriculture Committee recommended cutting SNAP in lieu of farm subsidies, which largely benefit the wealthy. And in October Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, fumed, "No program in our government has surged out of control more dramatically than food stamps."
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