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
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