I took the SNAP challenge, and Republicans are, as always, wrong

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The Farm Bill – full of deep, deep cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) –  failed in the House this week, largely because Republicans felt the cuts to SNAP should be even deeper than the $2 billion they want, which would throw about 2 million Americans off this essential food assistance plan.

Rep. Louie Gohmert swears that people eat King Crab legs while on SNAP.  Another not too tightly wrapped Republican Rep., Steve Stockman, “debunked” the difficulty of eating on SNAP by displaying a shopping list from the local dollar store full of Honey Comb cereal, rice and beans, root beer, popsicles and cookies – a menu that’s not exactly designed to nutritiously fuel men, women and children on a daily basis – and bragging he had money left over.  In fact, based on his thrifty shopping, Stockman said, “Based on my personal experience with SNAP benefit limits we have room to cut about 12 percent more . . . .”

King Crab legs?  Maybe – if someone is willing to spend nearly a week’s worth of the budget on crab.  Frankly, it really isn’t anyone’s business what type of food people purchase with SNAP benefits – but Republicans are determined that the poor eat like prisoners, or worse, on the government dime.  If it’s tasty, if it’s remotely “gourmet,” it shouldn’t be allowed.  In fact, if it were up to Republicans, poor children would be eating thin gruel three times a day in the “please sir, may I have some more” tradition.

My husband and I took the SNAP challenge last December, for an entire week.  We took our coffee from home on our commute.  We bought nothing at work.  We ate what we had.  And, unlike Stockman, we didn’t shop at the dollar store; we tried, as best we could, to put together semi-nutritious meals on a very limited budget.  Neither of us are gourmets, and we’re not huge eaters, but even so, the choices were limited and limiting.  Much of the food was chock full of carbs and sodium.  And the menu become pretty tiresome after a week.

SNAP worksheet








A bagel sandwich with eggs, cream cheese and veggies is about 750 calories, with 18g of protein, 16g of fat, 72g of carbs, and 470mg of sodium.  A turkey sandwich (processed turkey) with mustard and lettuce is a little under 300 calories, with 11g of protein and little fat, but it’s loaded with 500mg of sodium.  A quick meal of frozen chicken and rice burritos is 420 calories, 18g of protein, 10g of fat, 64g of carbs and a whopping 700mg of sodium.  The best meal I found – bang for the buck with low fat and lower sodium and carbs – was yogurt with Cheerios mixed in:  250 calories, 6g of protein, 0.7g of fat, 22g of carbs and 140mg of sodium.

Republicans ponder the mystery of why obesity is prevalent among low income people, people who rely on food assistance programs.  Gohmert (like Rick Santorum and many other Republicans do) scoffed at the notion of food insecurity when many poor people are obese.  ”From the amount of obesity in this country,” said Gohmert, “by people we’re told do not have enough to eat, it does seem like we can have a debate about this issue without allegations about wanting to slap down or starve children.”

Not only is the SNAP allotment – as it stands now, without cuts – barely sufficient to subsist on, it’d be hard not to become obese, with low-cost menu choices packed with high carbs, salt and fat.  And then, of course, there’s the flip side of the coin:  When America’s children become obese, Republicans also like to mock Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign as being some liberal plot to dictate how parents raise their kids.

People do the best they can with the resources they have and, as someone who’s sampled the SNAP fare, the pickings on a SNAP budget are slim indeed.



2 Responses to “I took the SNAP challenge, and Republicans are, as always, wrong”

  1. avatar Keith Evans

    A couple of years ago I came out of the hospital after weeks battling several problems. I had to have assistance for months until my strength returned, so my daughter and her husband moved into the converted garage area. I was too young for Social Security by a year, but unable to work, which meant no unemployment benefits. Disability under Social Security is a two year process that requires an attorney and lots of collaborative evidence from doctors, so that was not an option.

    As soon as my daughter and son in law moved in they became part of the household in the eyes of the state and their incomes had to be included in any computation of eligibility unless I wanted to remodel their area to include separate cooking and food storage facilities. This was waived upon appeal (two more months waiting) as the allotment requested was only for myself and much cheaper than the home health care I would be entitled to without their assistance. But, a single person’s allotment is only $200 per month in this ultra conservative Disneyland I live in.

    Very few food items are packaged to be efficiently utilized by a single person, or even a couple, without waste. Food diversity necessary for a balanced diet is all but impossible on $50 per week, as fresh produce and dairy always seemed to spoil at about the half way point of being used. I soon found myself relying heavily upon processed and frozen items that could be broken into serving portions suitable for my appetite. Pizza, pasta, and TV dinners became staples where I had always cooked from scratch and ate raw vegetables prior. Coupled with the lack of mobility from my illness, this allowed me to add significantly to my weight in a short time.

    Upon reaching 62 I was forced by circumstances to take my Social Security early. This knocked 25% off the top of the income I would have recieved if I had been 65. Even so, and with a mortgage (incurred to pay medical bills) that took fully half of that income, I make too much for the ridiculous standards for eligibility in this red state. In order to remain in my modest home that I and my wife built with our own hands before she passed my daughter is forced to remain as a tenant and contribute to the bills.

    If these “conservative” Scrooges had to walk the walk with only the safety net to rely upon they would have a chance to see all the catch 22 discrepencies purposefully injected into the process and also the limitation of choices forced upon applicants. There may be some welfare queens gaming the system, but those numbers can’t be significant beyond the occasional fraud that will slip through even the most well designed process. Just qualifying for assistance takes longer than anyone can live without food or shelter if they have no other resources. It is entirely possible to die of starvation in this “greatest nation” under conservative leadership.


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