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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