Friday, July 27, 2012

Living on Food Stamps

This is not intended to be a political statement or anything other than an experiment.

Since I began my graduate program in Community Development in 2007 (since graduated) I have been captivated by the choices and situations of American’s poor.  More specifically the rural poor, a group which  is often overlooked in favor of the more noticeable urban poor.  I have read the statistics and the books but have (fortunately) never experienced that life.  This is not a romantic obsession but rather a desire to know how a population that I serve lives.  Why do they come to the conclusions about choices that they do and would I come to a similar conclusion?  I can not realistically give up my job and house to live as someone in poverty might but I can limit my consumer consumption.  The only “real” experiment I can do is live on the budget of a food stamp recipient.

Awhile back a New York chef Mario Batali lived a week on food that he could only purchase with food stamps.  He said he was starving throughout the experiment.  If a man who knows how to cook for a living is starving how would someone like me, who can barely cook a frozen pizza, feel if I was put in a similar situation?

Here’s the deal.  The food stamp program is to supplement the food budget and not intended to be the entire food budget.  Prior to deductions (20% across the board deductions plus $147 for a two-member household) a gross monthly income of $1,554 is allowed.  Because we don’t have children or other deductions/income (such as social security, FIP, etc) I will not complicate the issue with those items.  After deductions the gross income limit is $1,096.  The program takes 30% of that income and subtracts it from the maximum benefit amount of $367.  So for our household of two people we would get $38 in food stamps plus our income of $329.

This seems like a decent amount of money for two people to eat each month and we’ll see if it is or not.

I can not voluntarily reduce my income but I can keep track of every item of food and drink I purchase.  If I spend less than $367 there is no need to continue the experiment.  If I am over that amount I will use the next month to budget accordingly.  I’ll stay honest by posting our purchases on this website.

I don’t want foreshadow before I start but I think the $367 will be enough money for our two-member household if we don't go out to eat much.  hat is just over $12.00 per day.  I know we spend more than that now.  What do you think?  How would you change the experiment if it were up to you?\]

Edit - I just checked my bank account and last month we spent $1,028 and two month ago we spent $1,148 on food, both groceries and eating out.  This might be more tough than I had planned for.

1 comment:

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