Last week, legislators across the country decided to take part in the Food Stamp Challenge, a project to have elected officials live on the same budget as a person on food stamps for a week. About a dozen Utah civic leaders and elected officials decided to take the challenge and see how they'd do. Rep. John Dougall decided to up the stakes and avoid packaged and canned food while still eating a balanced diet of fresh produce and meats.
What he did was amazing. He managed to eat what sounded like real food that anyone not on food stamps would scarf down willingly (albeit in lesser quantities). Meals were a good balance of protein, carbs and fats with lots of fruits and vegetables. He accomplished this through feats of proper meal planning and deal-shopping. And how did some of the other participants react to this?
With disgust and disdain. Apparently Rep. Dougall wasn't suffering enough for their tastes (which is to say, not at all) so they let him have it in at least two columns in the Tribune. Commenters on the stories joined in the melee to badmouth his efforts. (Dougall did a great job, however, of offering up a detailed rebuttal.) What makes me sad is that he took a serious challenge, decided to make it harder and still ended up coming out more-or-less on top.
What Rep. Dougall proved is that with proper meal planning, you can make your budget stretch out pretty darned far and still manage to eat real food. I can't for the life of me figure out why these detractors have refused to take the value of that lesson and say "hey, good idea. Now how do we get it to the people that need it?" The FDA has also managed to put together a meal plan for a family of four to eat on the cheap. (The real paper is down, but you can still get it out of Google's cache.)
I say that Rep. Dougall is owed a hearty congratulations for doing what everyone said couldn't be done. I give a big fat raspberry to the people who are more concerned with suffering for the sake of suffering rather than trying to find innovative ways to live on a meager budget. I guess we know who really cares about the poor now, don't we?