In an ongoing effort to reduce spending, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have been eyeing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.
Under the House Republicans’ plan for fiscal year 2012, SNAP funding would be cut by $127 billion over ten years and the program converted to a block grant. For California, that translates into an estimated $10 million in cuts, resulting in either a reduction in benefits to low-income families or stricter guidelines about who is eligible.
Some 3.7 million Californians are currently enrolled in the program, more than double the number from ten years ago, which helps low-income families purchase groceries.
To raise awareness about the impending cuts, Congressional candidate Norman Solomon went food shopping in Petaluma on Monday kicking off his Food Stamp Challenge, an experiment about what living on food stamps is really like.
A single person on the program receives $126 a month or just $31.50 a week, making grocery shopping more than challenging.
Click on the video on the right to hear Solomon discuss why he's embarking on his "Food Stamp Challenge"
Solomon is pledging to not spend any more than the alloted amount for an entire week (including going out to eat) to bring attention to what he believes is a vital program that sustains low-income families, especially during difficult economic times.
“The war in Afghanistan costs us $1 million a year per soldier, while Washington says it can’t afford the program that feeds millions of Americans,” Solomon told Patch as he shopped on Monday. “I feel a very powerful commitment to getting our priorities straight.”
Solomon, 60, is one of eight candidates running in the newly created District 2, which runs from Marin County to the Oregon border. Whoever wins will replace Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who has represented the smaller District 6 in Washington for nearly 20 years and is retiring at the end of next year.
The anti-war and anti-nuclear energy activist says he has personal experience being on food stamps for more than a decade in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.
“It’s gut level for me,” said Solomon, who now lives in Inverness and considers himself middle class. “I know what it’s like to run the gauntlet of filling out the application and then living on $28 a month for groceries.”
On Monday, Solomon shopped briefly at the Lucky on Lakeville Highway—buying some discounted avocados, bell peppers and apples—before deciding that the store was too expensive for his budget. He then headed to where he stocked up on a bag of yams, a block of cheese, bread, rice and lentils. Between the two stores, he had spent $14.24, meaning he still had $17 to spend on other meals during the week.
“It was very challenging,” Solomon said about his "first day" on food stamps, adding that he was now headed home to start cooking.
Do you have experience living on food stamps? Share your story with us.