Enough to Eat?

As Mark Price blogged earlier this week, several Philadelphia area politicians are participating in a weeklong challenge to live on $5 a day worth of food. The protest has been prompted by the state's decision to cut off food stamps for people under 60 with more than $5,500 in cash or certain other assets; for those 60 and older, the threshold will be $9,000.

The Greater Philadelphia Food Stamp Challenge, which started April 23 and runs through April 30, includes a lot more than Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Congressman Bob Brady and three state lawmakers. According to an article in the Chester Daily Local, thousands of people around the region are taking part, including Nicole Jones of Coatesville, who said the experience has taken her out of her "comfort zone."

“I have the luxury of going out and getting what I want, but now I’m thinking what I can get (on $5 a day),” said Jones. She plans on looking through newspaper circulars, using coupons and buying only what’s on sale...

“It will probably be a lot of carbs, pasta is relatively cheap, Jones said referring to her diet next week. “And there’s good old peanut butter...

“There is an issue of hunger in Chester County,” she said. “There is an increase in people going hungry, they’re using food cupboards and the SNAP program more.”

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has a great informational web page on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). The institute notes that in 2011 SNAP "helped almost one in six Americans put food on the table every month," and that "economists agree that SNAP is one of the best ways to stimulate the economy, with every SNAP dollar spent resulting in $1.73 of economic activity."

Since the start of the recession, SNAP enrollment has risen more than 50% in Pennsylvania as a growing number of families faced job losses and financial crises. Enrollment has also increased dramatically across the nation, as the graph below from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy shows. This is no time to be cutting off food assistance for more struggling families.

SNAP Enrollment (in millions).



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