Late last year, for example, Newark Mayor Cory Booker decided to spotlight how difficult it is to live on food stamps. He tried to live on the benefit for a week. “Today I burned a sweet potato,” Booker blogged on the fifth day of his challenge. “[W]ith supplies dwindling it was eat around the severely caramelized root vegetable or go without.”
Booker’s $30 weekly allowance left him unable to afford even a single cup of Starbucks coffee. However he was able to afford a tablet computer and, presumably, a high-speed connection so he could upload photos of his sparse meals.
Nelson took the same challenge Booker did, but made it even more difficult on herself. Could she use food stamps to feed her family of four? Yes. “I came in 36 percent below my allotted amount,” Nelson says. She spent a total of $98 for a week of food, and came away kicking herself, to boot. “I forgot to use some coupons I had with me. I could have gotten the final bill down to $92.”
Washington isn’t helping anyone by promoting dependence on government. Lawmakers should cap and then roll back spending on food stamps, and demand that able-bodied recipients work (or at least train for work) in return for its benefits. SNAP should also teach people how to be smarter shoppers.
Stephanie Nelson has volunteered to do the teaching; it’ll be interesting to see if the federal government takes her up on it.