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Emerson living on food stamp budget

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

WASHINGTON -- One large box of pasta? Check. Fresh avocados? No way.

On a shopping trip Monday through a Capitol Hill grocery store, Missouri Rep. Jo Ann Emerson tried to figure out how to buy an entire week's worth of groceries, but spend no more than $1 per meal.

That's the challenge every week for some food stamp recipients who depend solely on the subsidy for their meals.

Emerson, a Cape Girardeau Republican, and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., volunteered to spend seven days on a food stamp budget to highlight the challenges low-income people face in eating a healthy diet at current benefit levels.

"Most people on a day-to-day basis don't think about the fact that there are millions of people in this country who have to make a choice every day about how much they're going to spend on food," Emerson said.

Earlier this month, Emerson and McGovern sponsored legislation that would boost spending for federal nutrition programs -- including food stamps -- by $20 billion over five years.

According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, the average monthly food stamp benefit in fiscal 2005 was $94.05, or about $3 per day.

While food stamps are meant as a safety net to supplement a family's food budget, many who are unemployed or in financial trouble have to rely completely on government assistance. The "food stamp challenge," sponsored by anti-hunger activists around the country, encourages people to see what it's like to cap a weekly grocery bill at $21 per person.

Emerson limited her weekly budget to $33 because her husband, Ron Gladney, will participate for four days as well before going on a business trip.

Even after Emerson spent two hours preparing for the shopping trip by reviewing Safeway prices online, she had to make some tough choices. She loaded up on staples like chicken breasts, spaghetti and tuna.

But she had to leave favorite fruits and vegetables like strawberries and avocados behind. They were too expensive. And snack foods like Wheat Thins? Forget about it.

During the hour she navigated the store aisles, Emerson faced many of the issues that nearly 800,000 food stamp recipients in Missouri confront every day.

She bought hamburger meat higher in fat because it was less expensive than lean beef. She wanted more nutritious whole-wheat pasta, but settled on cheaper white flour pasta.

"I'll save over a dollar by blowing my low-carb diet," Emerson said.

Low-income shoppers face other hurdles, like not being able to buy sale items in bulk if they use public transportation, said Alexandra Ashbrook, director of the anti-hunger group D.C. Hunger Solutions, who accompanied Emerson on the shopping trip.

"A lot of people don't even live near a large grocery store so they can't go and take advantage of the sale prices," Ashbrook said.

Emerson's one splurge was a small package of blue cheese at $3.29 to toss in salads. She had to return a carton of eggs to work it into her budget.

Even with a staffer tracking her every purchase with a calculator and notepad, things were tense at the checkout line.

With the cash register showing $32.63, there was still a large bottle of seltzer water left on the conveyer belt. She had to return it.

"This is really a challenge," Emerson said with a sigh. "There are a lot of people in this country who go through this every day."

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When Republicans controlled congress she presented herself as a gun toting conservative. Now with Democrats in charge she's become a champion of the poor and has taken the side of emboldening our enemies in Iraq. Which way will the wind blow Ms. Gladney-Emerson tomorrow? Maybe if she actively worked to deport illegals there would be more food stamp money for poor Americans who have had their wages supressed by cheap foreign labor. Republicans need a new candidate in '08.

-- Posted by stevmo on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 7:49 AM

I would like to say it amazes me that politicians are just now trying to manage to live on budgets. How can they pass legislations to "help" if they don't understand what it really takes to live. Everyday essentials become extravagancies to those on fixed incomes or minimum wage, not to mention those that are unemployed. I only wish that more politicians would jump on board and take on the challenges that the majority of Americans call life.

-- Posted by lordservnt on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 7:57 AM

If an indivdual is eligible for food stamps, are they also eligible for other assistance programs? Is it accurate to evaluate this solely on the basis of what food can be provided from the food stamp program, or is the intent of the program to be a part of the solution?

Not being argumentative here, just ignorant.

-- Posted by Maynard on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 10:44 AM

How charming. So what'll she do to help now?

-- Posted by sideshowbob on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 10:50 AM

And stev mo, you position yourself as someone who is against "gun toting conservatives"? If ALL of us were gun toting conservatives (I happen to be one in the literal sense), there would be much less of a need for food subsidies. Get off your a**, go to school, and work hard.

-- Posted by drur on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 11:16 AM

If my friend JoAnn learns to eat for $3 per day (without food stamps), use a bicycle as primary transportation (surrender your drivers license to the state), shop for clothing at Goodwill ($4 trousers), be ready to duck the fire of gun toting conservatives and baby killing liberals (verbal & literal), and play three chords on the guitar (E,A,& B or C,F,& G) she can give up that horrible life of a beltway politician and become a Cape Girardeau musician.

-- Posted by TheCamp on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 12:08 PM

So I guess being a "gun toting conservative" is a bad thing? If there were more of us in this country, you wouldn't need the level of social programs we currently support.

Get off your a** , go to school, and starting working.

-- Posted by drur on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 2:53 PM

I want to know who the hell gives Jo Ann Emerson the right to give MY money away by proposing a boost in food stamp spending. Im not against helping people who will help themselves, but a person shouldn't receive food stamps unless they are working 40 hours a week at some job. I would be in favor of supplementing those who ARE working and penalizing those who are not. Remember you reward the behavior you want more of and you penalize the behavior you want less of. And Im wondering if Jo Ann is EATING the food stamp diet or just buying the food for a photo op.

-- Posted by bluejay_fan_natic20 on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 4:28 PM

"Most people on a day-to-day basis don't think about the fact that there are millions of people in this country who have to make a choice every day about how much they're going to spend on food," Emerson said.

I think "most" people do have to think about it. Especially working people who do not qualify for food stamps. We can't always afford to eat as healthy as we like. This story is pretty much the story of most people I know that do not receive assistance.

-- Posted by GatorMarci on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 4:39 PM

So it's tough to live healthy and/or well on government assistance?

That's the way it should be.

It seems we have a couple commie maggots shedding their cocoons.

-- Posted by uberfan20 on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 5:47 PM

It would help if she started living in the district she represted first.

-- Posted by cole.stein97 on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 7:34 PM

Cheers to you Steve Mo You are absolutely correct!

iffy What do you mean she does not live in the district she represents. Do tell Where does she really live and where is she supposed to live.

republicans especially the worst President in History(hint intials GWB) Have already proven they can not add or subtract. Republicans spend money like a drunk sailor with their lady of the night at the begining of the month. The best investment the American public could make would be to send all republican politicians a calculator. This way they could add and subtract. The only question then is do they have the intelligence to use it. They need to learn the first lesson of making ends meet. If your outgo is more than your ingo than your upkeep will be your downfall. The republicans have mortgaged our country to the Chinese. When America can not make the payment will our beloved nation be repossessed. I want fiscally responsible government. Republicans are not fiscally responsible.

-- Posted by lovinlife&lovincape on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 9:08 PM

It's no secret, prices for many commodities have risen dramatically in recent years, such as gasoline, gold, coal, natural gas, and electricity. Unfortunately, none of these remotely help citizens in Jo Ann's Eighth Congressional District, because we don't produce them. We consume them. What we produce here are agricultural commodities on the vast fertile farmland in this district. While prices for our commodities have been buoyed some (and maybe temporarily) by the prospect of new ethanol plants, our prices need more real demand to carry them up on par with the commodities produced elsewhere. That's what's being missed. We're being too quick to judge her on surface motivations we guess might be behind her actions. Jo Ann Emerson is working hard, and she's working smart, to do something real for land owners, farmers, and farm workers in her district. She's doing what she can to stimulate permanent real demand for our farm products. By her $1-a-meal Food Stamp dramatization, she has focused the concern of every urban Democrat on the urgent plight of the working- and yes, the non-working- poor. She's saying, "yes-sir, there's trouble, trouble with a capital T and it's now and its' real, and something must be DONE." Simply put, she is imaginatively creating a "something must be done to fix Food Stamps" urgency to pressure urban Democrats to agree to buy more of the commodities produced here in our district. Hint: She didn't promote avocados (they're grown in California), and she didn't promote Mexican strawberries or tomatoes, and she didn't support heating oil produced with Saudi oil. She understands what we all need to understand. When agriculture thrives in this district, we all are bouyed on its tide. Farmers spend in our establishments after they sell their crops. You see, Jo Ann's not like all the do-nothing politicians who're good at running around breathlessly wringing their hands, flip-flopping their positions as the wind blows, while they do nothing. She identified an opportunity to help her constituents. She rolled up her sleeves and is working for all of us. Thanks Jo Ann. In Congress, WE THE PEOPLE could use 434 more just like you!

-- Posted by trcole3 on Tue, May 15, 2007, at 11:32 PM

Drur & stev mo you make very good points. I begun questioning he actions since January. She seems mucho mas liberal than conservative these days.

-- Posted by SkippyJon Jones on Wed, May 16, 2007, at 9:47 AM

Well trcole3, since you seem to have explained that Emerson's feigned concern for the poor was really a ruse to get more federal benefits for her big farmers then maybe you can also shed some light on her "present" vote on the Democrats military funding pork bill? Also her big farmers benefit from a supply of cheap illegal labor while low income American workers wages are kept low because of the availablility of the illegal labor pool. So gaze into your crystal ball and tell me who's side Emerson will be on then. Big farmers or working poor.

-- Posted by stevmo on Wed, May 16, 2007, at 2:18 PM

uber fan20 needs to learn some hard facts...like low-income, retirees and unemployed are in desperate situations not necessarily brought on by themselves! I know -- I live on food stamps and Medicaid, I was born and raised in America, I went to college (2 years)and still, with the price of today's commodities, I cannot live on Social Security! Please quit your bashing until you have walked in someone else's shoes.

Thank you, Stev Mo, for your insight.

-- Posted by Mysti-Me on Wed, May 16, 2007, at 5:29 PM

What is the problem with our state? You work 40 plus hours a week, barely able to make ends meet. Yet, you ask for help from our government and you make to much money? So, tell me. If i sit home and watch tv all day, drink beer, and do drugs, i can get medicaid and food stamps/medicaid ??? Well, that says its better to sit. Yes, you can't have medicaid/mc+ for your children because you work. Their dead beat father works very little so that knocks you out too. Although, you very seldom see child support he won't keep a job to carry insurance and i by no means can afford insurance. Mind you i make decent wages, but my children will do with out. I think the adults who can work should or no help and supply our working people with that help who need it. Give our children medical coverage as they are the ones suffering. If you can't try to make it why get help you don't deserve it. The system is wrong don't reward those who sit and do nothing, they will keep doing nothing....

-- Posted by brat1234 on Wed, May 16, 2007, at 8:04 PM

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