Reporter snaps, accepts food stamp challenge

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Reporter snaps, accepts food stamp challenge

$33.98.

Easy to blow on a nice bottle of wine. Or if you’re budget-minded — and really careful — enough to cover a meal for two at a decent restaurant.

But how about eating on that amount for a week?

That’s what adventurous souls throughout metro Atlanta — including me — will do, starting today and ending next Saturday. I’ll chronicle my experiences in next Sunday’s “Metro Focus.”

It’s called the SNAP Challenge, and it’s an exercise designed to demonstrate, in the most up-close-and-personal-way, the realities faced by the 1.9 million Georgians who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“food stamps”) to put groceries on the table.

Lolly Beck-Pancer, outreach coordinator for Wholesome Wave Georgia, said the amount is based on the average monthly SNAP allocation for an individual — an amount that just went down. During the Great Recession, Congress approved a temporary increase; that increase expired last month after lawmakers declined to extend it.

In addition to boosting awareness, the SNAP Challenge aims to draw people to several farmers markets across the state, which have agreed to double the amount of participants’ food assistance benefits.

Beck-Pancer said about 55 people have pledged to participate in the experiment via a Facebook page.

She said she took part in a similar challenge for a month, living on a food budget of $135.

“It was an experience in human dignity,” she said, adding that she lived largely on lentils, forgoing ordinary pleasures of “normal life,” such as going out for coffee or dinner with friends.

“You don’t have the money to bring food to a friend’s potluck,” she said. “It internalizes that feeling of being less-than, when really it has nothing to do with you as an individual.”

So, check back next week to see how I fared. And in the meantime, I could do with some good lentil recipes.

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