Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Could You Live on $31.50 a Week for Food?

'Soup' photo (c) 2010, Tiberiu Ana - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Last Thursday, members of Congress and religious leaders went shopping at a local Washington, DC grocery store. Their goal? To buy a week’s worth of groceries for only $31.50, the average amount an individual on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) receives per week to buy groceries.

The experiment  was all part of Fighting Poverty With Faith, an interfaith coalition that includes Bread for the World which holds an annual event to highlight poverty across the United States. In order to demonstrate how $31.50 a week, or $4.50 a day, is already too little to buy sufficient and nutritious food on, hundreds of concerned Americans are participating what’s known as a Food Stamps Challenge.

Like the members of Congress and religious leaders who went grocery shopping last week, participants pledge to spend no more than the $31.50 a week on all food purchases—which include eating out. Particpants are also encouraged to avoid free food. To take the pledge and learn more, Fighting Poverty has a guide on its website. Check out the experiences of those already taking the pledge, including several members of Congress, by following the hashtag #foodstampchallenge.

Many leaders, typically used to having the resources to feed themselves easily, found it difficult to buy enough food on such a tight budget and relied on the help of SNAP recipients who know how to manage with this small grocery budget every week. National Council of Churches President Rev. Peg Chamberlin, a Food Stamp Challenge participant, said, “More than 45 million persons live on food stamps, and they are not strangers. They are our neighbors, co-workers, family members, and they are us. … I challenge all of us to share in that struggle for a week, not merely to attract attention to the growing needs of persons in poverty, but as a reminder that God does not expect any of us to turn our backs on others in need.”

The campaign is working to educate decision makers and the public on the importance of addressing hunger in our country. In 2010, 14.6 percent of families struggled to put food on the table. With poverty and unemployment at record highs, many families continue to deal with the effects of the worst economic downturn in many decades. Despite this, many in Congress are trying to cut critical safety nets like SNAP. With so many families in need relying on the program, now is clearly not the time to make unwise cuts or changes to the program.

Local events sponsored by faith groups are also being held around the country. Groups are holding hunger banquets, screening sessions for the movie “Food Stamped” and praying about hunger.

As the Congressional “Super Committee” continues debating how to reduce the country’s deficit,  our leaders need to hear from you and your friends that programs that fulfill our moral obligations to hungry and poor people, like SNAP, must not be cut.  

Ben D'Avanzo is the Mimi Meehan Fellow at Bread for the World.


« Sen. Jon Kyl: Arizona's SNAP Participation is at Record Highs Rep. Xavier Becerra: We’re Asking You to Fight For Our Town »


Why is it so difficult to find out exactly ..
What IS the so-called "Poverty Line?"
This article gives it for only one situation, a family of four.
I'm not a family of four. I guess I'm not allowed to know what the term "poverty line" means for me.

Hi Mark,

Thanks for asking. Here is a link to the Census's excel chart of poverty thresholds for 2010: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/threshld/thresh10.xls. You can use this chart to determine the poverty line, also called the poverty threshold, based on the number of people and children in a family. The Census Bureau calculates the poverty line yearly by following a formula developed in the 1960’s based on the cost of food. It is important to note that while this is the government’s official measure of poverty, many believe the statistic is outdated and should be changed to reflect higher housing and medical costs borne by many low-income people.


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