With dozens of Democratic lawmakers struggling to live on a food stamp budget to protest GOP cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a Republican staffer says he is living on a SNAP budget without problems.
Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman’s communications director and agriculture policy advisor, Donny Ferguson, says he has been able to eat well on $27.58 for a week, less than the $31.50 House Democrats have limited themselves to for their “SNAP Challenge.”
“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,” Ferguson said of the challenge.
Stockman’s office noted that Ferguson did not use coupons, discount programs, or a shopping list, and he shopped at locations accessible via public transportation.
“Not only did I buy a week’s worth of food on what Democrats claim is too little, I have money left over. Based on my personal experience with SNAP benefit limits we have room to cut about 12 percent more,” Ferguson said.
“I didn’t use coupons, I didn’t compare prices and was buying for one, instead of a family. 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.” Ferguson added. “I could have bought cheaper vegetables instead of prepared red beans and rice, but I like red beans and rice. Folks aren’t buying fast food instead of vegetables because of benefit limits, they’re buying fast food because fast food tastes great and vegetables taste like vegetables.”
To be sure, hot food and food eaten within a store are not SNAP eligible purchases.
The food he has left over, Stockman’s office explained in their press release, will be donated to a food bank, along with the $3.92 left over.
Ferguson’s shopping list included $21.55 spent at Dollar Tree to purchase:
Two boxes of Honeycombs 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
Ferguson also spent $6.03 at the Shoppers Food Warehouse for a gallon of milk and a box of maple and brown sugar oatmeal.
Democrats participating in the SNAP Challenge have used social media to chronicle their journeys and challenges. Unlike Ferguson, they have had more difficulties.
— Jan Schakowsky (@janschakowsky) June 12, 2013
— MichelleLujanGrisham (@RepLujanGrisham) June 16, 2013
— Donald Payne Jr. (@RepDonaldPayne) June 13, 2013
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) June 13, 2013
The House farm bill would cut $2 billion annually over ten years, or about three percent of the SNAP budget. Last year SNAP cost about $80 billion. The White House has threatened to veto the House bill in part for the cuts to nutrition assistance. The Senate farm bill, which passed last week, cuts $400 million annually or about half a percent from SNAP.