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May 16, 2007


Gary Gernstein

Bravo to you and Rep. Tim Ryan for trying on another's shoes. Just imagine if you did not exempt your children from this exercise how creative you would have to be to eat for the week.

Toni Strother

I have done this for many years. From it we learn nutrition, frugality, food storage, and public policy. Thank you all for doing it.

I recommend calculating how much time you have to cook, whether you have a stove, and how much fuel you can afford.

Congratulations to Rep. McGovern for making lentils. They taste good, keep you going for a long time, and they take less time to cook than most other legumes. I would substitute legumes and peanut butter for meat, unless I found an incredibly good buy in the clearance bin. My family calls it "used meat." Eggs are a good buy if you eat them.

Rep. Ryan's loaf of whole wheat bread is a time-saver in the whole grains group. I would probably buy flour, but that takes time and fuel. Oatmeal is a good buy. You can make all sorts of goodies, from cookies to skirlie, with it. You can even eat it uncooked for breakfast. Put orange juice on it and call it muesli.

Good for Rep. Ryan for the garlic. It will last two weeks. Next week, an onion, or a bag of them. Don't forget canned fruits and vegetables--frozen vegetables, if you have a refrigerator with a freezer compartment. These are often cheaper than fresh and are nutritious. You can eat them plain, make soups, casseroles, or Russian salad. Canned tomatoes are great, and frozen concentrated orange juice. I would skip jam at the beginning unless I loved it.

Grow some of your own food, if you have a place. Eat weeds, if you can get organic ones. As in all planning, know what you have, where it is, and how to use it. Date it and rotate it. Keep learning all the time, and have fun sharing--food and recipes.
Grandma Toni

Sarita Sweet

You'd be amazed how much more you could get for your $21 if you shopped at Magruders instead of Safeway!! I think it's really a shame that big old Giants and Safeways are edging out our wonderful little Magruders stores, where real people can still afford to buy real food.



Good for you, I can't wait to see the results.


If Attny. General Alberto Gonzales's Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007 passes, posts like these might be criminal. ;)

s palmer

bravo for doing this
it is ridiculous the amount of money we're hemmoraging occupying other countries while our own is going down the tubes

i would also recommend barbara kingsolver's latest book

it raises great awareness about how our country's food production is becoming dangerously less diverse (corn and soy taking over and being put into everything) and how a little refocus of priorities can change our consumption of cheap fatty fast foods

Jay Turley

That's awesome!

I suggest that for the next challenge, you try to pay rent and utilities for a one-bedroom apartment with unemployment benefits.

Karen Marcus

In D.C. it can be hard to eat on $21 a day, let alone a week. I commend you for bringing attention to this profound issue that many Americans hardly ever think about.

Mrs. Lisa McGovern

the gas driving to Magruders might negate any savings, I'm afraid....

Mandy Davis

I think it's really great that you are all doing this challenge, and I also want to start the conversation not just about food stamps, hunger and poverty but about food subsidies and the federal government's propping up of industrial agriculture and "cheap food".

Do you see the connection between what you can afford to eat and where the money in the farm bill is directed? Can we solve this problem of food access from both directions, meaning make more money available for food stamps while also readjusting subsidies and supports to farmers to make the price of food more fair, or at least more accurately reflect its "true cost" (and I would include the cost of cheap oil in this equation)? I realize in the short run this means an increase in the price of food across the board, but isn't that what we're looking at anyway?

Is there a way to make small scale farming viable and make local, fresh food not just available but affordable to people?

Why is junk food so cheap? Why are so many food insecure people in this country fat?

I think it's really important to demonstrate the real choices poor people have to make everyday about their health and nutrition, and it's equally important to think critically about what the government has done over the last 30 or so years to contribute to these choices and what we can all do, and particularly those of you in power can do, to make healthy food a viable choice for everyone.

If you haven't already, read Marion Nestle's books. Read "An Omnivore's Dilemna."

I am excited by this project, and I hope a lot of positive solutions can come out of it.

david weiss

Thank you for trying to do what I do every week. I am disabled and have to depend on foodstamps. I have often thought that if Senators and Congresspersons had to live on foodstamps we would see an increase in the amount of monthly foodstamps.

I sure appreciate your efforts to bring hunger to the forefront.

your admirer and enthusiastic supporter

david weiss


Thank you so much for doing this.


I have a question for you. I know that we are told that the continued exodus of jobs is caused by economic globalization and that its unstoppable. That it just doesn't make sense economically for American businesses to hire Americans anymore when they can save so much money by setting up plants overseas.

There is another big factor which is also leading to the decline in middle class jobs and that is technology's gifts. For example, Moore's Law says that the amount of computing power available for a given sum of money will double every 18 months, indefinitely. What that means is that eventually, not too far in the future, ways will be found to automate a very high percentage of jobs. Everywhere on Earth, not just here. That change is aploitical and unstoppable, its based on technology.

Because when you think about it, what humans offer is a certain level of computing power that is still very expensive to get on a computer, but less and less so, logarithmically.

Eventually, what you will have is a situation where many people wont be able to find any work for any wage. What will we do then, start using sticks instead of carrots, for example, by making unemployment illegal? We already have done that because of the requirement that one pay for rent food, water, etc. Perhaps they will start criminalizing everyday behavior? I don't know.

But, one thing is certain. In the future, most weath will be inherited, not earned. Business will become more and more profitable because of the declining need for human labor. The rich will get richer and the poor ever more powerless. (Because who cares if poor people who don't have jobs strike.. see what I mean?)

The competition for the shrinking pool of remaining jobs - those that still require human computers instead of silicon ones, will be fierce. And people who are over 35 or so won't be able to keep up. What will we do with all those people who were counting on working into their golden years because they didn't make enough money now. See what I mean?

It all doesn't add up. We need to stop our denial and accept that technology is pushing us towards some tough decisions. Do people exist for corporations or do corporations exist for people? What is government's purpose in this situation? To promote further denial?

You can't have it both ways. Corporations are not people. They should not have been given the rights of people.

Washington, we have a problem.

Jeff Arender

Thank you very much for taking on this challenge. I volunteer at a food bank in Wilton Manors Florida that serves people living with HIV. Existing health issues add a whole new challenge in the need to eat healthy. The ability to eat a balanced diet is as vital to the health of a person living with HIV as medical care and medications. As I am sure it is for people facing many other health challenges.
I wanted to suggest that a trip to the local soup kitchen or food bank to supplement your grocery budget may be an option. (Would that be cheating?)

Jed Friedman

I am very excited to hear about such a demonstration on capital hill. It is not so often that hear about politicians protesting on the steps of their own capital.
You people can run in my district any time you'd like (4th district, CA).


MIght I suggest making a large pot of chicken soup, adding carrots, celery, turnips and an onion to the soup for veggies, shredding up the chicken, and adding a pound of brown rice. That will last you through several dinners, is healthy and delicious, and a much better use of chicken than eating it all in one meal.

Again, as a person that heads a family of 3, including two starving teenagers, on SSDI, I feel that this is just an attention getting stunt. Yes, you're going to learn what it means to live cheap for a week, but you're not worrying about your housing costs, your utilities, driving a car that may or may not be insured, inspected, or even safe, and purchasing all the other items that the poor need to survive. Just buying clothing for my kids (not for me, I haven't bought myself a stitch of clothing in at least 8 years), coats, shoes, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, never mind PAYING for Mass Health for my kids that I cannot afford, Medicare for me that I can't afford, and just hoping to maybe once every 6 months go out to a movie. YOu need to experience what it really means to live on the edge of society year after year with absolutely no chance of change because CONGRESS REFUSES TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE FED POVERTY RATE IS A JOKE.

What you can do to help is to work towards changing the Federal poverty rate. It is the ONLY think that will really make changes for the poor. As long as their is no cost of living increase, no cost of living changes for geographical location, the federal poverty rate will continue to block families like mine, who live in the greater Boston area, earn $1750/month on SSDI and pay an $1800 month rent. Listen and listen carefully. I do not qualify for food stamps. I earn too much money on SSDI to qualify for food stamps. Ditto for subsidized housing. Ditto for welfare, and any other federal program. Ditto for Mass Health. I DO NOT QUALIFY because of the federal poverty rate which is used to calculate who qualifies. The same rate used in Iowa and Boston. Manhatten and Kansas. San Francisco and North Dakota. Do you SEE the problem.

CHANGE THE POVERTY RATE. It's massively unfair and keeps the needy out of programs they should qualify for. You tell me how a family of 3 lives in greater Boston on $1700/month. Please, enlighten me. I'd love to hear any suggestions on how to do that when my rent is $1800. Really.

Until you can answer this, your attempt to live on food stamps doesn't impress me at all.

Mr. Weebles

"You tell me how a family of 3 lives in greater Boston on $1700/month. Please, enlighten me. I'd love to hear any suggestions on how to do that when my rent is $1800."

Have you thought of working overtime or getting a second job?

jane webb

Christina, I have a question, what are lawmakers doing about laundry detergent, basic house hold cleaning supplies and paper goods? Food Stamps don't cover these items, and it's impossible for many to buy them. Most depend on public rest rooms for what they can scrape together. Try saving the inside foil or wax paper linings in cereal boxes to wrap left overs. Will this part of the problem be addressed too? The food stamp program allows a minimal amount of food to eat and not one roll of toilet paper. What are the less fortunate supposed to do? Thanks for what you are doing!


Do you know that a family of three get LESS food stamps than if EACH individual received their own allotment of food stamps? Reason? It costs less to cook for three at the same time. I was dumbfounded at this answer directly from a Dept. of Human Services food stamp case worker! In the past, when another person came to live with me and my kids, that person would apply for their own food stamps instead of me adding them to my benefits. This way, that person would get the max amount. Yes, this person would have to produce a letter from me saying that he or she would be buying and cooking their own food! Here is an example of how much food stamps one would get individually and as a family group.
One man= 150. food stamps per month.
Family of three= 300. food stamps per month.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the family is receiving LESS in aid than if they were to get their own individual food stamps! The gap may be quite less, but, this is only an example. This is a problem that should also be addressed by our leaders, and remedied very soon.

Pauline Kapoor

I think what you are doing is admirable. There was a time I had to go on food stamps and the first time I stood in the check out line I cried—it wasn’t supposed to be this way. However, I do have mixed feelings about food stamps. It is a great program when it gets to the people who need it. I worked at an A&P at Bailey’s Crossroads quite a while back. I would see women pull up in Cadillacs and Lincoln Continentals wearing furs and purchasing Porterhouse Steaks with food stamps. Then a man would come through my line with a package of pig ears and tails that he made soup. He paid $0.34 in cash. I’ll never forget it. He could have used the stamps; the fur-draped, Cadillac driving ladies should not. There is a lot of fraud and abuse and the people who the system is set up for often can’t negotiate it.


In California what is the max you can make in order to qualify foor food stamps? I very curious...

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