Archive for Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Just Food challenges Douglas County residents to live on food-stamplike grocery budget

November 13, 2013


The Douglas County food bank Just Food is recruiting volunteers to live on a grocery budget of $3.96 a day next week to spotlight the challenges food stamp recipients face, the group announced Wednesday.

To mark National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, November 16-24, Just Food is encouraging people to live off the average food stamp benefit in Kansas for their per-day grocery spending. Those who want to take the challenge, or those who are just interested in learning more, can meet at 6 p.m. Monday at Checkers grocery, 2300 Louisiana St., in Lawrence. Those participating can shop for their weekly allotment of food at that time.

“While living on a food-stamp budget for just a week cannot come close to the struggles encountered by low-income families week after week, it does provide those who take the challenge with a new perspective and greater understanding,” said Leah Charles, Just Food AmeriCorps member and organizer of the food-stamp challenge, in a news release. “We hope to shed a light on the challenges facing many in Douglas County and the urgency to provide for the needs of low-income residents.”

Just Food, relying on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said that more than 18,500 people in Douglas County are in danger of being without adequate food. Of those, only 54 percent are eligible for food stamps, according to the group.

To learn more or to sign up to participate in the challenge, go to,


Scut Farkus 4 years, 6 months ago

As a Republican I am opposed to Food stamps, therefore I will never use them.

Belinda Willhite 4 years, 6 months ago

I hope you never have to use them either. Isn't it nice to know that it's there if you do need it. Oh, wait, you live in Kansas and might not qualify under their rules. No single people need apply. At our non-profit that I helped co-found here in rural Iowa nearly 7 years ago, the poor were our reason for opening. I see quite a few people over 50 who want to work and can't get hired. Lower skilled folks are having an extremely tough time of it. When you can't get a job, are you supposed to starve too? We don't think so. We think that everyone has worth and needs help sometime. No one person can do it alone. I'm assuming you aren't concerned with Americans starving. Feel free to check out our facebook page at Welcome, We Help.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

You are incorrect about "no single people need apply". The rules state that single able bodied adults without a dependent can receive benefits only for 3 months of a 36 month time frame if they do not work or participate in a workforce or employment training program they are referred to. What is wrong with requiring that an abled body individual without a dependent to either work or get gov't provided training to make them more employable as a requirement to continue receiving benefits? It doesn't refuse them benefits, it gives them the choice to either work, get free training or drop SNAP. Not unreasonable. This is simply one way of keeping abled body individuals without a dependent from doing nothing to help themselves while continuing to receive benefits. If the individual is disabled or has a dependent at home with them then this rule does not apply.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Thank you for reminding people the "S" in SNAP stands for supplemental. Maybe if the gov't and press would say the actual full name of the entitlement programs instead of giving every entitlement program a warm and fuzzy abbreviation meant not to offend anyone then the public might realize what they are talking about.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Earlier this week an editorial in LJW reported a family of four would receive $632 per month in supplemental food allowance. If calculated for the entire year to account for 30 or 31 days per month, leap day etc, the daily per person supplemental allotment works out to approx $5.19. This may not sound like a lot but it is 31% more than what the demonstration is using. If the individual monthly max supplement is $200, that works out to approx $6.58 per day. That is 66% more than what the demonstration is using.

The demonstration is not set up in a fair manner. SNAP funds are designed to be a "supplement" not the only source of food funds as previously stated by To Sides. For the demonstration to be fair it must allow the participants to use their own funds in addition to the SNAP funds. If the demonstration forces the participants to use only SNAP funds then any and all results will be invalid. In short they are comparing apples to oranges. If the demonstration is invalid in its design from the start then we must conclude the demonstration is nothing more than an attempted ploy to appeal to the emotions of people in hopes of guilting them into demanding more SNAP funds for recipients. I hope the public is smart enough to see the demonstration for what it is and refuse to be fooled by it.

While I applaud Just Food for the work they do, this demonstration has not been designed to be a fair. It has been designed to fail miserably simply for show but not for reality.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Thank you. I am well aware they are using the average supplement benefit for KS as they listed in the article. I was pointing out the amount they are limiting the participants to is substantially lower than the max benefit. This would indicate the average recipient in KS also has some source of ongoing income. As the average KS recipient has some income to use as a source for additional funds to purchase food it is not a fair comparison to limit the demonstrating participants to less than the same. The way the demonstration is set up is to suggest the only amount of money the average KS SNAP recipient uses for food is the given supplement. That while not outwardly stated, is what is implied by limiting the participants to the $3.96 figure. This is, as I stated previous, not a fair way to set up a demonstration as it is not an apples to apples comparison.

And again to flog a dead horse, the SNAP program is designed as a supplement not the sole source of funding for the recipients food budget. So to criticize the program for not supplying enough funds to the recipient to buy enough food to eat (which Just Foods is trying to do by this demonstration) is an unfair premise. And to make the outcome as dramatic as possible the demonstration is not only not allowing the participants to use their own money as the real world SNAP recipients can and should do, the demonstration is not even going to give the play actors the max SNAP benefit as the sole source of funding for the demonstration.

I realize this may be hard to follow as I have written it but as the demonstration is set up it is so unfair a comparison I find it difficult to articulate in a simple manner.

I again say I applaud what Just Foods does for the community, but the demonstration they have set up is not being fair to the mission of SNAP. They are complaining about something SNAP was never set up to do, that is to be the sole source of funding for a recipient's total food budget. It would be like criticizing Just Food for the limited food choices they may have to offer people that use their service even though Just Foods mission is to be a source of supplemental food not to be a HyVee.

Steve King 4 years, 6 months ago

The other reality is there are too many children plus, going hungry. How do we fix that?

I've been to Just Foods in a contributory manner and was stricken by the staff's personal mission to be out of a job. To no longer be needed. And I've seen many a "customer" who would go hungry if not for the kind people running Just Foods, over 90% of them working purely voluntary.

People through no fault of their own come upon hard times at times.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

What else would you have society do to help feed children. They get lunches, in some places breakfasts not to mention snacks when school is in session. Many districts send kids home with goodie bags for the weekend. Some districts have summer programs that provide meals and snacks. There is SNAP to give parents additional funds for food that the parents may or may not actually use to feed their children versus sell for other purposes. I am certainly not happy to see any child go hungry. The parents are ultimately responsible to provide for the children they brought in to this world. Too many of them are failing to provide for their children simply leaving it up to society to do so. Maybe the question should be how does society force the parents to do their job? We can't seem to limit people from having children and we can't seem to make them take care and provide for them once they are conceived. No one has the stomach to remove children from parents that don't provide except in the most extreme of circumstances, and when they are removed they may not be in much better conditions in some foster situations. When parents fail In their responsibility to adequately provide and parent their children there is only so much that society can really do to make up the difference despite the best of intentions.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Cait, I believe you are chastising me more than I deserve. I used the term "goodie bag" but never did I state they were filled with cookies, cake or candy. I don't find the term "goodie bag" to be one that should rise to the level of causing you to "resent" me. That certainly seems over the top.

I did state some districts hand out goodie bags because they are to my understanding distributed at school. If that is not the case I apologize. I never stated how they were paid for. My intent of the original comment was to point out that children do receive supplemental food sent home to help provide for when they are not in school. It does not bother me if it is a government program or a private program, I was in no way attempting to criticize the program whoever manages and pays for it. I am happy to applaud the private charities for providing the service.

The entirety of your final paragraph regarding how I find my self worth and sneering at people using EBT cards if they aren't primarily buying lentils and beans could not be farther from the truth. In my professional career I have provide multiple tens of thousands of dollars of charitable work happily to those in need. In my personal life I have routinely donated to charitable causes not for recognition but because I feel it is the right thing to do. So don't tell me how I find my self worth. You know nothing about me. Your statements directed at me are grossly inappropriate, inaccurate and just plain mean spirited. I can assure you I am rightfully resentful of your statements directed at me. Oh by the way, I wouldn't know what an EBT card looks like if someone handed it to me, so I am not able to "eagle eye" people using EBT in order to "sneer" at them.

Scott Morgan 4 years, 6 months ago

I agree something has to be done to help, and I certainly agree with John G about using warm and fuzzy names for programs.

We need to be honest, then work to solve the problem of hunger in our nation. Honest as in let's not forget the other programs as public school free and reduced breakfast and lunches. This is around 40 meals a month per each of the assumed 2 in this family having to live on 632.00.

Oh, at least in Lawrence free chow is offered at many locations during the summer. Not great may I add, but calories. Some after-school programs offer snacks too. We must add in the many private/public food pantries, and of course government surplus handouts as well.

I'm serious here, not easy to work a budget for struggling folks, especially when it involves transportation to the pantries and government give-aways. An older vehicle can smash a budget quickly. But.......I think it's disingenuous to claim a family has to live on 632 a month.

In short, let's start with an honest look at the problem.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

Wait a minute. Are we actually asking people to feed themselves on less than $4.00 per day. Exactly what are food stamps. The program is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Key word -supplement. These benefits are part of an over all assistance net that provides about $23,000 per poor person per year.

Another key word is "nutritional" which is different from the word "hunger". Try as we might we will never get people to eat nutritionally. Throwing money at that problem is like bailing out the Titanic.

Yes we need to take care of people but we need to remember that the advocates get federal money to support additional food programs beyond SNAP and their view may be colored by their jobs depending upon continuing and expanding federal money.

It is time we looked at all out social safety net programs and consolidated and focused them toward a common set of goals. Right now they are scattered all over the government with little coordination or focus.

Let's tell the advocates they need to get organized and present a total picture before they demand more tax money.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Come on George, what were you thinking. You are asking for something that would require logic and cooperation from the gov't as well as advocates at the federal, state and local levels. It is a fine idea but thinking that all the different groups would actually work together for a common goal makes me giggle and cry at same time.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

And so was born the Tea Party - advocates for tax reductions because the advocates for goodies just can not exercise self discipline.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

George I agree with you. I was trying to be funny in responding to your prior statement. Your idea sounds good, I just doubt the gov't is bright enough to actually do it. The GAO repeatedly advocates similar ideas to yours of consolidating overlapping programs/coordinating programs yet congress typically fails to act. The problems with entitlements is people get used to them and then want more. There is never enough to make them happy once they become institutionalized (dependent on the institution of government for their day to day function). The safety net is a fine idea for society but too often some people (not all) never try to be fully self sufficient again.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

The only way my suggestion can be realized is essentially a revolt by tho e who pay the bills. Each committee and subcommittee of the Congress devolve power from managing these programs. There is no way they will let go of that power. Same-same for the various cabinet departments of the federal government. This stuff is deeply entrenched.

I fear we may have already passed the tipping point where the majority pay little or nothing and receive a lot (federal programs). The only way that will be corrected is when the bill for all the goodies has to be passed down to lower and lower levels of income. Eventually you get the revolt (or it is imposed by outsiders (as in the case of Greece)

There are many many Barbaras and Kats and a distinct lack of counter arguments.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

See comment to Kat. I am begrudging kids nothing. Why do you fear a coordinated program?

IMHO you and your fellow advocates would be better served if you stopped arguing a single slice of a complicated program. We also give mothers WICK and TAMF which means they are not destitute and starving.

Get real!!!

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

I wish I understood your comment but I do not. I have never advocated for ending a single social safety net program. I have repeatedly observed that we spend a lot and that our mutual objectives might be better served if it was coordinated better.

I have also pointed out that there are limited resources. The rich can not support all the demands on here as there are not enough of them. The middle class is already taxes in excess of 30 to 40%.

Frankly the only way I can see to achieve your seeming desire to address every ill in our society (real and imagined) is to resort to some form of communism where we redistribute everything and all live alike. Good luck on selling that notion.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Even communists didn't like communism. They had black market free market systems where ever possible.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Barbara, The SNAP allowance for a family of four, $632 per month, is sufficient funds (with less than $10 per week needed from the family's other income) to meet the costs of the USDA "thrifty" food budget that according to the USDA allows a family of four to provide three healthy meals including fresh fruits and vegetables plus snacks per day per person. As purely a supplement, SNAP funds based on USDA data would seem to be reasonably fair since a family of four could feed itself with using less than $10 a week of the family's other income. Not bad for a "supplement". This means the family would be providing less than 10% of the costs to feed the entire family for the entire month. This does not take into account any of the free meals (lunches and in some areas breakfasts) the two children would receive during school session. Also there are programs that provide supplemental food to the children to take home on weekends.

No one is begrudging any child "a little bit of supplemental food" and no one has claimed the child should work at a sweat shop or in fact work anywhere. No one has complained about the types of food the family puts in the family grocery cart.

The data is what the data is. If someone doesn't agree with the data they can argue that point with the USDA. But attempting to paint people as against allowing supplemental food to children unless they earned it in a sweatshop is simply inaccurate and inflammatory.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

I have not been tearing down the current system. I have provided specific data from the USDA that justifies the amount of SNAP supplement provided. I have pointed out how the Just Food "demonstration" is not a fair evaluation of the current SNAP system. I have not provided any solutions as I don't see the need for any with respect to how the SNAP supplement amount is determined.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Barbara, your statement "The Mo senate introduced a law to repeal existing child labor laws" is incomplete in telling the full story. If you read the full context of your link, yes the MO senate did introduce a bill to repeal some sections of the existing child labor laws. That same bill also enacted NEW sections to replace the repealed sections. The bill is quite detailed in how it limits employment of children age 14-16 (quite restrictive in what is allowed) and for children aged 16 + (only slightly less restrictive than for the 14-16 age group). Children younger than 14 are not permitted to be employed. Your statement could lead one to think they repealed all child labor laws. I would hope you weren't trying to mislead anyone by leaving out important information about replacing anything repealed with new child labor laws. No one on this site has posted anything close to begrudging children "a little supplemental food" or recommended any child labor.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Barbara, 2011 MO senate bill sr222 was proposed by a tea party member who argued the government should not tell parents how to raise their children. The bill received well deserved ridicule from around the country even from other tea party members such as those in Maine. The bill "died". There never was any real threat of the bill becoming law. So the child protection laws in Missouri are still in place. Again you have shown an example of a single individual and then generalize it to a larger group, in this case the state senate of Missouri. While I have no love loss for the state of Missouri, your statement did not characterize the situation accurately.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

Barbara, yes I remember Newt shooting his mouth off regarding that issue. I believe this was after his days in congress, thus he was speaking as an individual member of the public. I am unaware of any bills before congress in the last 30 years advocating having children act as janitors in exchange for their supplemented school lunch. The references you made to two politicians making statements are too vague to be of any significance. You did not provide name or context to the alleged remarks so who knows if they are valid. It appears you wish to take the remark of one former politician who shot his mouth off and apply it in more significant general terms to a portion of the population. If you are going to state "they" have suggested children work for it, you need to provide support of who "they" are when you only have evidence of one "him" that made such a remark. The generalization to the broader public is not a fair one.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

That is your opinion why he didn't get the nomination. You have no real evidence to support your claim. I could claim he didn't get the nomination because of the press articles about his spending account at Tiffany's. Newt shot himself in the foot repeatedly during his run for the nomination. It would not be possible to identify the single cause of his failure.

Paul Decelles 4 years, 6 months ago

George, what is the source of that $23,000 per poor person per year? Just curious.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago

Sum the major federal safety net programs (including state contributions) and divide by the number of people that the government claims are poor.

Kat Christian 4 years, 6 months ago

Irregardless if you like that people receive food assistance it is society's responsbility to help each other. This is what makes us Americans. Would you rather have starving children digging through your trashcans for bites to eat, sleeping under your porches to keep warm? Crime and chaos would hit the rooftops, not to mention our economy would dump because not enough people would be able to afford to purchase food or clothing. So the government is doing the right thing by giving assistance, believe it or not it is helping the economy. The system isn't perfect by all means but its better than the other outcome. I agree that SNAP is intended to be a "supplement" food assistance, but there are many who don't have the extra cash to add to what food assistance they are receiving and it isn't nearly enough to feed a family of 4, especially when they are mostly children and one adult because most households who receive this assistance are usually without one parent. The food they offer in schools is not nearly healthy to eat with empty nutrional value. So stop complaining because you never know you just may be one paycheck away from going hungry and will need help one day. We are all in this boat together and if we all don't start pulling together to help it stay afloat it will eventually sink into oblivion by our own doing.

George Lippencott 4 years, 6 months ago


I did not advocate eliminating food stamps or other nutrition programs. I advocated for a coordinated tie for all social safety net programs.

Why is it that when anybody suggests we all work together we receive comments that cast us at horrible evil doers trying to starve children.

Like everything in life it is not either/or!!!

Scott Morgan 4 years, 6 months ago

It's a tough sell George, hard for some to understand just how many programs are out there. This is very similar to the cyclical complaints about job training programs. Just as with the topic many do not realize the dozens and dozens of local, county, state and federal job training programs there are.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 6 months ago

I am a SNAP recipient and I get $98.00 a month. I recently had an insight that I should have had earlier in my life, but did not. I have been buying a lot of snack foods. Talk about health and nutrition went in one ear and out the other. But after reading some comments and columns I realized that I could not afford snacks. If I only buy foods meant for three meals a day I can make it on the food stamp allowance. If I tell myself that something is not in my budget then I will not be as tempted to buy it. I really don't want to go into why it took me so long to figure this out. The important thing to me is that I have. I plan on keeping a written record of the meals that I will plan for this month.

I would also like to add that working people cannot take off work to take advantage of Just Food and like places.

Belinda Willhite 4 years, 6 months ago

Leslie, we are also recipients of SNAP. I spend my time helping the poor understand how to live better on less. The rich do not have a problem with being given help in the form of subsidies, but begrudge some from even eating. To hear them tell it, one would think they want them to just go away and die. More for them to have. I know for a fact that there are many reasons for poverty and it is unfair to paint an entire population with the same brush. The recession isn't over for many who were at the bottom of the pile already. The folks who come in our door have been trying. When unemployment runs out and you can't get another extension or get hired, what are you supposed to do? In a rural community it is even more pronounced. For some of these people, SNAP is ALL they have. Believe me, they are grateful. Some folks are waiting for SS disability to kick in. That can take years and even if at the end you get a large check, that won't feed you today. I can go on and on with the various reasons someone would need the help SNAP provides but this is Kansas and I left there for good because we could not afford to live there any longer. There will always be some who abuse a program, but the vast majority needs it legitimately. They should not be "punished" for the actions of a few. The reality is that the folks who are getting help would rather be able to provide for themselves. Watching a grown man or woman cry isn't easy to see. It's degrading and inhumane, in my opinion.

Amy Heeter 4 years, 6 months ago

Talking about the needs of the poor is likee arguing about Tiller and abortion. Opinions are already in stone. The solution it to consume within your means it pay the consequences. This challenge to way on a snap budget accomplishes nothing. Those who donate will continue to do so and those who don't won't start to.

Scott Morgan 4 years, 6 months ago

Amy, I'm not sure about the negativity, for at least my family does give when the need is there. When a case as the above is made we find it difficult to give our hard earned monies. Or support expansion of tax funded programs.

So, I will make such a case about a true need.

On the other hand we do recognize and support all the programs (at least the ones we know) in helping with clothing costs for the needy.

Chat with a school social worker about the lack of proper clothing for kids, it will tear your heart strings. You may be one, I was one whom used to comment about jr. and senior high school kids wearing shorts all winter. That was until I found they often didn't have a pair of proper fitting long pants.

As I found as a new parent years ago, kids grow, and kids are sensitive about what they wear.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 6 months ago

Scott,I feel very good because I not only have a coat, but a hat and gloves and winter socks. I still marvel at that. There were times when my daughter had to wear socks on her hands in the winter and I do feel ashamed about that. At the time I had no information whatsoever about any help that was available, if it was back then.

Sarah Mathews 4 years, 6 months ago

So, sounds like everyone is up for the challenge, then?

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