According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutritional Service there were 46,326,352 individuals in 22,155,497 households receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits in February 2012, the latest date for which figures are available. That’s up 4.8% from February 2011, but down -0.3% from January 2012.
The average monthly benefit was $132.98 per person. That’s roughly $33.25 per week, $4.75 per day or $1.58 per meal for 3 meals per day, seven days each week. It occurred to me that the daily allowance wouldn’t cover one way of my commute to work.
Millions of Americans with this food budget have to juggle which foods to buy with their SNAP benefits. Lowering your foods costs down to this level appears to be a daunting task. I can understand why the decision to buy a hamburger for $0.99 would appear to make more sense than spending $0.75 for a can or bag of beans.
It’s very easy to denigrate people on the SNAP program as just looking for a handout or even treating applicants like criminals – as evidenced by New York State’s fingerprinting of food stamp applicants – but high unemployment and even higher underemployment has forced people who probably would never have thought of applying for these benefits to seek help. An article recently highlighted the tripling of individuals with graduate degrees applying for SNAP benefits. Granted, they only make up 1% of total benefit recipients, but this is still a disturbing trend.
How much do you spend per week on food for yourself? Take away what you spend on eating out. Do you think that you could live on $33.25 per week for food? The Food Bank of New York has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging all New Yorkers to live on a food stamp budget. Celebrities such as Mario Batali and his family are participating in this challenge.
Are you willing to try this challenge? Can you live on a food stamp budget for a week?