Kansas residents taking challenge to live off food stamps

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DOUGLAS COUNTY, Kan. -- On November 1 food stamp benefits that were increased in 2009 by the recovery act expired, reducing food stamp benefits nationwide. The Douglas County Food Bank, called ‘Just Food,’ wanted to bring awareness to the effect they say that is having on families. So they challenged people in Douglas County to try living on a food stamp budget for a week.

FOX 4 shopped with ‘Just Food’ employees Elizabeth Keever and Jeremy Farmer, who each got $11.88 to spend on this shopping trip for three days worth of food

"I got my apples for 98 cents, so I was at 1.5 pounds, so that's a $1.47, so that's probably going to be my breakfast for all three days," Keever said.

The idea behind this food-stamp challenge is to buy healthy foods, not just packaged meals.

"Access to healthy foods on this kind of budget is extremely difficult," Keever said.

About 80 people in Douglas County, including nearly every locally elected official, are participating in the food stamp challenge for a common goal-promoting healthy foods and also to help ease a stigma.

"Awareness, reducing the stigma of food stamps because I think there's a lot of shame people have when they're using their food stamp card," Keever said.

Farmer wanted mayonnaise for his ham sandwiches.

"$1.88 for mayonnaise, and that $1.88 will put me over by about 60 cents," he said.

Keever realized peanut butter is too pricey.

"I think I'm going to have to put my peanut butter back in order to be able to afford my soy sauce," she said.

The two skipped coffee and turned down extras. They wound up with basics like: rice, chicken, bread, lunch meat and veggies. At the checkout? After a lot of calculating, they can now eat on $3.96 per day for three more days.

Keever said since food stamp benefits were reduced this month, the number of clients at ‘Just Food’ have gone from 60-70 per day to up to 120 per day. ‘Just Food’ estimates the reduction in benefits will force them to provide 31,800 more meals this year to fill the gap.

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5 comments

  • Michelle

    I’m a single mom of one making less than $25,000/yr. My grocery budget is approx. $200/mo. for both of us, less than what those on food stamps get. We aren’t going hungry and we aren’t eating junk everyday. I shop sales, use coupons and make recipes that allow me to freeze food for lunches or meals later so that I don’t need food stamps! Helping people, help themselves would be a better use of our money.

  • Joe

    Many food stamp recipients are taking advantage of the program so anything they get is a bonus for them. When you cannot even afford to buy your own food, you have made some really poor decisions in your life. Everyone has a different excuse. Some are lazy and don’t want to work while others don’t work because they get their food for free and don’t have to. Wonder if they ever thought about planting a garden or giving up the cigarettes and booze. They also should have decided against getting that tattoo that probably cost $50 or more and for wasting gas driving their car to Wal-Mart when they really didn’t need the junk they bought.

  • Joe

    And lets not mention the fact that this is a supplement. You have the food stamps plus your income (as low or high as it is)…

    Plus you make Food Stamps a hand up, where people have to work for them-Volunteer hours, look for jobs, etc PLUS Drug tests on the 15th of every month. Strike 1-loss of 1/4 of benefits, Strike 2-loss of 1/2 benefits, STRIKE THREE YOU”RE OUT!

  • Frugal Mama

    I find these food stamp challenges irritating. It’s important to my husband and I that I am home with our two very young children so our family of 4 lives on 27K a year BY CHOICE with a monthly food/toiletries budget of $250. We not only make ends meet and still have savings, 401K, and private insurance but we accept absolutely no government assistance to make it work.

    Oh, and we eat really really well.

    Some processed food (because sometimes mama just wants to put a pizza in the oven and call dinner done…), but certainly far less than average with plenty of fresh produce etc. The SNAP program is *supposed* to be supplemental, not the recipients sole means of grocery purchasing. Just making slightly smarter decisions before checking out can stretch those dollars further.

    And you’re right Joe, a drug test here is an excellent idea!