This morning, I gave a speech on the Floor of the House of Representatives about my experience taking the Food Stamp Challenge the past six days. I have pasted it below.
is my final day on the “Food Stamp Challenge,” an initiative where public
officials eat for one week on a food stamp budget—21 dollars for the week –
that’s three dollars a day, or one dollar per meal. This amount reflects the national average
food stamp benefit.
The purpose of the Food Stamp Challenge is to raise awareness of the
crucial role the Food Stamp Program serves in the lives of 26 million Americans
each month, including over 450,000 in my state of Massachusetts. Three of my esteemed colleagues
–Representatives Jo Ann Emerson, Jan Schakowsky, and Tim Ryan – joined me in
taking this challenge over the past week. Although we may be less energetic and perhaps crankier than when we
started the challenge nearly a week ago, each of us has learned a great
Certainly, my wife, Lisa, and I have gained valuable insights from our experience on a very tight budget. We have much more sympathy over how the lack of energy and the hard choices on how to stretch the budget and put food on the table might also stretch one’s patience and stress a marriage. We can imagine the worry and pain of parents if we had to feed our children on this kind of budget—these are just a few of our reflections over the past week.
Yet, truly, our most valuable lessons came from the scores of individuals who reached out to us to share their personal experiences struggling to put food on the table for their families. Whether they posted comments on our blog or called my office and spoke with my staff, these individuals taught Lisa and me about how hard-working Americans manage to provide for themselves and their families in spite of inadequate food stamp benefit levels. They talked about having to make tough trade-offs between paying utility bills, buying clothes for their children, addressing medical needs, and purchasing food. They also described the trade-off between eating to be healthy and eating to be full. These kinds of trade-offs are unfair and unacceptable.
America can and should do more for low-income individuals and families working hard to survive every day. One way we can do that is through the Feeding America’s Families Act, a bill I introduced earlier this month with my colleague, Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson. The Feeding America’s Families Act would strengthen the Food Stamp Program to better meet the needs of low-income Americans. It raises the minimum benefit from 10 dollars a month—an amount that has not increased since the 1970s—to about 30 dollars a month. It also indexes current benefit levels to the rate of inflation, ensuring that the purchasing power of food stamps remains constant. Furthermore, because access to the Food Stamp Program should be the right of every lawfully-residing person in this country, the bill restores eligibility to all legal immigrants, a provision that was removed in 1996.
On Sunday, May 13th, Mother’s Day, the New York Times editorial stated that “bolstering food stamps must be Congress’s top priority in this year’s farm bill.” I could not agree more, and my week on the Food Stamp Challenge has only strengthened my conviction. I encourage all my colleagues to cosponsor H.R. 2129, Feeding America’s Families Act, and other legislative efforts to bolster and improve our federal hunger and nutrition programs. The cliché tells us that where there’s a will, there’s a way, but in this case, the way is very clear. The question is: do we have the political will? " "