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GOP shopper: It’s a SNAP to live on reduced food stamp allotment

By   /   June 18, 2013  /   32 Comments

Part 6 of 20 in the series EBT Investigation
EATING WELL: Donny Ferguson said he ate just fine on $31.50 a week.

EATING WELL: Donny Ferguson said he ate just fine on $31.50 a week.

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON – A food fight erupted over the House farm bill Tuesday, with a handful of Democrats and a Republican aide wrangling over the cost of groceries.

About 30 Democrats launched a “SNAP Challenge,” intended to show that proposed cuts to food stamps would leave families unable to feed themselves.

The Democrats claimed that the $31.50 weekly allotment from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the House farm bill in inadequate – and attempted to prove their point by living on that amount.

Republican skeptics countered that the Democrats intentionally bought overpriced food and shopped at high-priced chains to make it appear that proposed SNAP cuts go too far.

Donny Ferguson, agriculture policy adviser to Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, said he was able to buy enough food to eat well for a week on just $27.58.

“I wanted to personally experience the effects of the proposed cuts to food stamps.  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.  I put my money where my mouth is, and the proposed food stamp cuts are still quite filling,” said Ferguson.

“We can cut the proposed benefits by an additional 12.4 percent and still be able to eat for a week,” said Ferguson.  “Not only am I feeding myself for less than the SNAP Challenge, I will probably have food left over.”

What food is left over at the end of the week will be donated to a food bank, along with the $3.92 Ferguson had left over from the $31.50 SNAP Challenge figure.

Ferguson said he did not use coupons our other discount programs.

“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” said Ferguson. “I could have bought cheaper vegetables instead of prepared red beans and rice, but I like red beans and rice.”

Ferguson purchased his food at the Dollar Tree and Shopper’s Food Warehouse located in the 6100 block of Little River Turnpike in Alexandria.  It is served by Metrobus and within bike and walking distance of public housing.

For $21.55, Ferguson purchased at Dollar Tree:

Two boxes of Honeycomb cereal

Three cans of red beans and rice

Jar of peanut butter

Bottle of grape jelly

Loaf of whole wheat bread

Two cans of refried beans

Box of spaghetti

Large can of pasta sauce

Two liters of root beer

Large box of popsicles

24 servings of Wyler’s fruit drink mix

Eight cups of applesauce

Bag of pinto beans

Bag of rice

Bag of cookies

For $6.03 at the Shoppers Food Warehouse next door Ferguson bought a gallon of milk and a box of maple and brown sugar oatmeal.

Earlier this month, the Senate approved a farm bill that would trim nutrition assistance by $4 billion out of nearly $800 billion over 10 years. The House version, which is being debated, cuts $20 billion over the same period.

Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and chief of the Virginia Bureau. Contact him at [email protected] or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward


Part of 20 in the series EBT Investigation


Kenric Ward was a former San Antonio-based reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • andrea

    That’s great he bought this for that amount of money, but the only healthy items that he purchased were: milk, rice, 1 bag of beans, 1 bag of rice and a loaf of whole wheat bread. The apple sauce is suspect, but I guess could be considered healthy. He not only should purchase this, but actually eat this for the week and then seen how he feels. He’s suggesting that Beans and rice are his protein and carb but no fresh fruit or veggies are on the menu for this week. I think after 3 days – he’ll be looking for more variety of choices.

  • Matt M

    If like the food you can purchase with that amount of money…get a job! I know…what a crazy idea.

  • Parmenter

    With 23% unemployment? Have you been living under a rock since Bush was President?

  • Parmenter

    He should stay on it for 90 days.

  • Karen

    But wait..I thought the great “O” has made everything better with all his “hope and change”! Are you telling me that things aren’t better Parmenter..and you’re still blaming BUSH???? REALLY???????

  • srbboo

    The point is, that you WILL NOT STARVE if your food stamp welfare is $31.50 per week. The point of food stamps isn’t to make sure you get to eat food you like, it’s to keep you from starving. If you want more choices, get a job. Get two jobs. Do what people have done for centuries- WORK FOR IT.

  • Parmenter

    No, actually, if you’ll re-read, I was indicating that things were much better when Bush was President.

  • srbboo

    Twenty three percent unemployment? What rock are you under Parmenter? Unky Barry says unemployment is only 7.8 percent.

  • Karen

    Sorry..I misunderstood. Possibly since Bush’s presidency ended may have been somewhat clearer. To me how you put it could be taken either way. Anyway..sorry about that!

  • David Brouwer

    23% unemployment????? The Gov. says 7.8%?

  • Katie

    Ummm….the majority of those on food stamps do work, sometimes two jobs at minimum wage. The other half are elderly and children who cannot work. Do you honestly think Wal-Mart or Burger King pay enough to keep their workers off food stamps? Besides, he bought crap food; not fruits, veggies or foods that will continue or increase long-term health. What do you think happens when these people get diabetes or high blood pressure, you bitch and moan because they get free or reduced cost health care. $136/week for a family of four and you think it’s okay to cut more? You people make no sense. You hate abortion but want to cut Head Start, SNAP and other programs that support these children. You want them to work harder but expect them to work 2 jobs at minimum wage and be able to provide for their families. You most likely claim to be good Christians but your selfish and disgusting attitudes towards the least among you are abhorrent. And conservatives are supposed to be the moral party? Ha!

  • rushthis

    No meats, fruits or vegetables. Would you let your child eat like this? This is more proof that Conservatives just don’t get it. The GOP should get ready for the dustbin of history.

  • Becky Nelson

    Eat that way long enough, you’ll be obese and diabetic. Then, you’ll not be able to work, because you’ll end up disabled from it. And you will actually be starving, because your body is starving for nutrients, not sugar! (take a look at each item on that list, and see how many don’t actually have sugar listed as one of the first 5 ingredients!)
    Also, most everyone on SNAP is ALREADY WORKING!

  • Becky

    Also, not everyone can drink milk (lactose intolerance) and can possibly be allergic to the gluten in bread. The applesauce, because it came from the Dollar Tree, probably has sugar as an added ingredient. Not what I want to feed my kids! Let alone the Popsicles and soda! Green veggies or even tuna on this list would have been helpful. (Note, he didn’t purchase an onion or ANYTHING to flavor the beans and rice!)

  • GladiatorJohn

    Seriously? this is what he expects people to eat 365 days a year? This will contribute both obesity AND hunger not to mention the costs of healthcare when eating like this catches up with people. What. A. Moron.

  • Ken Kjer

    He is a special kind of stupid. Do it for a year asshole!!

  • Ken Kjer

    I would like to add to my comment on this. My wife and I have a yearly income of over 200k. I have a PhD and my wife has 2 masters degree. I am not saying that for my own benefit. I monthly donate to the local food shelve and am aware of the hungry people in this country. So that having been said, I say again he is a special kind of stupid and is an embarrassment to anyone who claims to be Republican. He should be removed from office, if for nothing else than being an idiot!!! I challenge him to do this for a year for his whole family.

  • Ken Kjer

    He ain’t a moron, he is just plain stupid.

  • John

    You guys who are talking about a lack of fruits and veggies; you do realize that in most of the world this would be considered a sumptuous diet, right? Billions of people get by on little more than rice and beans. Looking at things from a global perspective, SNAP is generous, even if it doesn’t get people everything they might want.

  • Aaron Aoc

    He’s not brilliant…I could have proved that you can live on $12 per week…just buy a bag of dry dog food and drink water from the tap…if it is good enough for the dog, I guess it is good enough for people on food stamps, right? Do they think they are better than my dog? I think not, and I know Mr. Ferguson agrees with me!

    Mr. Ferguson, you are my hero, but next time do the dog food challenge and show them that we can be feeding these people on even less…and for those who whine about proper nutrition for babies and toddlers, they make a puppy blend I am sure would work for these kids that, let’s be honest, aren’t going to get a decent education anyway so really aren’t worth the money we waste on them in food stamps.

  • Aaron Aoc

    Unfortunately, he is an overpaid jackass in the congressman’s office…not the congressman.

    Mr. Ferguson is a special kind of retard. Rather than argue the government has no obligation to the citizen to supply sustenance, he argues that his obviously bad food choices are a great way to reduce cost, never mind the additional outlay be all of society as we pay for their hospital bills when they are obese, diabetic, and have heart disease.

  • Surreal

    When I first read this, I thought it was satire. Really? Someone is proud of buying that? That is considered “eating well”? Um, no. That is considered eating to survive. Where are the vegetables? Fruit? And no, corn syrup laden applesauce doesn’t count. Neither does corn syrup laden jelly. In fact, almost every single thing on that list has corn syrup in it. The amount of sugar and crap in that list of food makes me want to go eat a salad. This is THE WORST example of ‘how we can eat on $30/week’ I have ever seen. How about instead of the cookies and soda you go buy a $4 bag of apples? Skip the drink mix and get a few heads of lettuce, a bag of onions. Dear lord, no wonder the US is fat. Someone gives you $30 for food for a week and you spend a quarter of it on JUNK that is slowly killing you. Well done.

  • Daisy

    That was a terrible diet. However, I live alone and I usually get by on less than $30/week not counting non-food items and what I feed my dog and cat.

    This week my weekly bill came to $26.96. This is a small town where prices are high and variety limited. I bought on sale and came up with about 30 meals — more than a week’s worth, but I also am using rice, dried beans, butter, Mayo, eggs, spices, and biscuit mix I already had on hand. My garden is already producing veggies. So far, I have lettuce, radishes, green onions, carrots, parsley, and thyme. My tomatoes are coming along nicely and I should start eating my tomatoes by mid-summer.

    I bought a pound of extra lean hamburger( $3.79), 6 oz canadian bacon ($3.75), 2 cans tuna (.89 ea) , 2 frozen chinese meal packs (4 servings each, $3.49/pkg,) 2 boxes brown and serve sausage, (.99 ea) 2 pkgs country gravy mix (.44 ea), a loaf of 12 grain bread (1.79), frozen OJ (.99) an onion ($64), box of taco shells(.99), 2 gallons of reverse osmosis water, and a 6-pack of diet root beer. Our town gets water directly from a well and it is not treated, so I use it for cooking but not for drinking.

  • yourang

    OK, I’ll give him a B- for trying. Most of the comments have to do with the lack of fresh fruits and veggies, tho’ there’s little mention of meat. That is a problem…a BIG one! Yes, he didn’t make wise choices with his money, but hey, he’s a guy, right? He was probably only thinking of stuff that would be filling and go a long way, not whether it was nutritious! I’ve personally had to resort to food stamps and food banks to feed my family of 4, when my children were little. Yes, it was hard, but not impossible! We did have a little garden to grow some fresh stuff that helped, and we would be able to get a lot of stuff at the church’s food bank, including fresh produce, even if it was less than perfect. The key to doing “healthy” on food stamps is to stay away from processed, prepared food, with maybe the exception of boxed cold cereals and breadstuffs. You can be very creative with a few basics, plus some occasional “special” items that may come your way. Smart shopping is imperative! Looking for “marked down” items, shopping specials and couponing helps the bottom line a lot, and many times, you get things you would not otherwise have tho’t of, or been able to afford. Unfortunately, the majority of people using food stamps either don’t have the education or the impetus to be a smart shopper, so they are self-relegated to unhealthy food choices.

  • concernedone

    Wait a minute – DONNY SPENT ANOTHER $6.5O AND WENT OVER BUDGET – BUT THIS ISN’T REPORTED HERE! He spent a total of $34,08 and didn’t make the budget – now if he wanted to know how a poor person felt, maybe he should have forced himself to stay in budge…

  • tam68

    Oh sure, you shopped at a dollar store and most of them do not except food stamps…wrong answer try doing your shopping at a walmart or real food chain store not a cheap dollar general or dollar tree.

  • tam68

    I agree with you, I know families that have young children and they require fresh fruits, veggies, meat, dairy, and whole grains. This idiot has obviously never tried raising a healthy family with healthy meals.

  • chapped

    Guys, here’s my idea! Let’s buck up
    Donny Ferguson’s donation – I’m asking all in the US who can afford it
    to send a can of pork and beans to the US House of Representatives to be
    donated in his name.

    Somehow, I don’t think this would get much publicity if it went to
    Stockwell, so why not mail it to your Representative, with the words
    Ferguson donation on the package.

    The address is:

    U.S. House of Representatives

    Washington, DC 20515

    You can find your Representative here: http://www.house.gov/

  • Louis Shaw

    I am not supporting this person’s position at all but he could have done a lot better with his money. If he had spent the root beer, popsicle and cookie money on hot dogs or hamburger, he could at least have made a claim that he actually bought food to last a week. It wouldn’t have been healthy but it would have been less of a display of ignorance.

  • devilindetail

    That shopping list of Ferguson’s doesn’t seem like “good eating” to me! Not any fruits or vegetables and zero meat of any kind. Almost all of the food is processed food, high in carbs and low in protein and nutrients. Of course one can eat “something” for $31 per week. Try eating this for multiple weeks and then get a health check-up.

  • carol the nurse

    Wow! I just read the SNAP Food Challenge article. I looked at the food that was purchased and nearly fell over from shock! The food he purchased is high carbohydrate, high sugar, low nutritional food. I am desperately trying to teach my obese and Diabetic patients how to eat healthy. This menu is not it. Actually, I was on food stamps years ago and I could have done a better job feeding myself than that. People need fresh fruits and vegetables, they need lean meats. These items cost money. Cutting the amount for each person is not an answer. Instead, lets subsidize fresh fruits and vegetables and offer cooking classes. No more white bread, and PB&J sandwiches. Or we will pay on the back side with higher medical bills from coronary artery bypass surgery, prolonged hospitalizations
    for strokes, and many other consequences of poor food choices.
    May I add that I hope Donny Ferguson doesn’t eat like that
    all the time, or he will be in a wheelchair with oxygen very soon.

  • carol the nurse

    Here is a great list of the World’s healthiest foods. Nothing that was purchased is on this list. Again, lets educate our SNAP recipients on better food choices, not just how to not starve for a week!