Delaware Congressman lives off food stamps [video]

Bologna sandwiches and leftover spaghetti; those are some of the meals U.S. Rep. John Carney has been eating this week while he participates in the SNAP challenge.

Carney, D-Del, is one of 25 members of Congress participating in the challenge, which consists of buying and living off a week’s worth of groceries for $31. That’s the average budget a person who utilizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spends.

“First of all, buying the food, you have to really pay attention to what you are buying, how much it costs, looking for bargains; and, store brand prices tend to be a little bit better,” said Carney. “Stretch the dollar as far as it will go.”

The food challenge comes as Congress debated the Farm Bill, which the House shot down Thursday because of the changes it would cause to the SNAP food stamp program. Carney said the legislation would have cut benefits to 20,000 Delawareans.

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“There are a lot of questions that have been raised about some of the funding for the Farm Bill. It’s my view that Democrats and Republicans could reach an agreement on some of those areas where they could tighten things up in terms of eligibility,” said Carney.

Carney helped volunteers distribute fresh fruit and vegetables to needy families at the St. Patrick’s Center in downtown Wilmington on Friday. The church receives weekly donations from local grocery stores to help feed anywhere between 75-125 residents, including many seniors and struggling families with children.

Wilmington resident Althea Wilson said she receives food from the center a few times a month when she runs out of her SNAP benefits.

“It helps stretch the other benefits throughout the rest of the month because sometimes before the end of the month comes, I’m short,” she explained. “And I’m very grateful.”

Carney said the experience of SNAP has provided him with a better understanding of the challenges low and fixed-income residents face when it comes to buying food.

“When you do that, when you try to at least appreciate what people go through, then I think you have a different attitude on the funding levels that we should provide,” he said.

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