We decided to take the food stamp challenge to raise awareness, to educate people and to compel action. We also did this to learn.
Some have called my office over the last several days both "pro" and "con" what we are doing. I am grateful for all the comments.
Those who have been critical have been mostly people who, I believe, have some bad information about about the food stamp program and about hunger in America. Some have suggested that food stamp recipients get a job. The reality is that most have jobs! Others have accused us of exaggerating the problem of hunger in our country. The fact is, according to US government statistics, there are over 35 million Americans who are hungry or food insecure. There is not a community in the United States of America that is hunger free. That, in my view, is something we all should be ashamed of.
A few people have complained that those of us who are doing this cannot possibly have any idea of what it is like to be struggling as low-income families. I believe this criticism has some merit. Because for us this food stamp challenge is an exercise that will end on Tuesday. After that we will go back to our regular lives and regular habits where we do not have to worry about the planning, preparing and anxiety of living on a food stamp budget.
Reporters have asked us, "Are you hungry?" "Are you tired?" "Will you run out of food?" or "Are you cheating?" Yes, I'm a little hungry and a little tired. No, I don't think we'll run out of food because we think we planned OK. And, no, we haven't cheated. But, I must confess, I feel a little embarrassed even saying I'm a little hungry or tired. It sounds like complaining. And the fact is we are very, very lucky - luckier than most people. My biggest temptations have been the appetizers at receptions and banquets. Most Americans don't have access to what Members of Congress have access to everyday.
It is sometimes easy to get detached from the reality of poverty when you're in Washington. I would like to believe that I never have. But, the experience of the last several days, the comments on the blog, the calls to my office, reporters' questions and the people I have talked to in Massachusetts and around the country have given me an education. I am grateful for that -- and I and others need to take what we've learned and do something about it.
A reporter from the Boston Globe, Bella English, followed Lisa and I around for a couple of days. Her story appears in todays Globe which I hope will generate further discussion and get people thinking of ways to improve the status quo. The link to the Globe is below: