A Republican hill staffer participated in a publicity stunt designed to bring awareness to the plight of food stamp recipients by spending only as much money on food in a week as the federal food stamp program provides.
The SNAP Challenge, as it’s called, referring to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, isn’t as difficult as many Democrats claim, he says.
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"I wanted to personally experience the effects of the proposed cuts to food stamps," said Donny Ferguson, communications director and agriculture policy adviser for Rep. Steve Stockman (R., Texas), in a news release.
"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. "I put my money where my mouth is, and the proposed food stamp cuts are still quite filling."
About thirty Democrats have said they will participate in the SNAP Challenge, which requires participants to eat on only $4.50 per day, or $31.50 per week.
"It’s tricky. You know, I just got done having lunch and I’m hungry again," Rep. Mark Pocan (D., Wis.) told Politico.
Rep. Robin Kelly (D., Ill.) said she is "really relying on the peanut butter."
New York City’s Democratic comptroller John Liu, who is running for mayor and participating in the challenge, tweeted pictures of himself eating Campbell’s soup directly from the can, and a loaf of sliced white bread.
Ferguson says Democrats are playing up the difficulties of the challenge in order to boost the political case for increasing food stamp benefits.
"Not only did I buy a week’s worth of food on what Democrats claim is too little, I have money left over," Ferguson said.
"I didn’t use coupons, I didn’t compare prices and was buying for one, instead of a family. I could have bought even more food per person if I were splitting $126 four ways, instead of budgeting $31.50 to eat for one."
He also posted a full list of food purchased, along with photos of receipts, on Stockman’s website.
While some SNAP Challenge participants opted to spend their $4.50 at expensive stores such as Whole Foods, Ferguson opted for a dollar store and a Shoppers supermarket.