My Food Stamps Challenge

Posted by Alex Hodor-Lee

Federal funding allocated to The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has now run out.

Money that was distributed to SNAP during the American Recover and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which injected government dollars into the economy with the hope of pulling the American economy out of recession, ran out on Nov. 1.

The stimulus' end means that SNAP benefits-which extend to about 47 million Americans-will be cut by around 5%.

According to The New York Times, a family of four receiving the maximum amount of state benefits will decrease to $632 from $668. Thirty-Six dollars a month may seem trivial to Skidmore students (it sort of does to me, to be honest), but what if that was all you had?

SNAP benefits will drop from $200 to $189 for single SNAP beneficiaries. In more individualized terms, the cuts seem far less trivial.

"At the most basic level, the functionality of [SNAP] takes care of people at an absolute caloric level, but not at a social or cultural level. Because in more generous terms, it portrays what the problem is" said Social Work professor, Pat Oles. "A non-trivial number of working adults are on SNAP, and how do they deal with [the cut]?"

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'll begin a two-week food stamp challenge. Spending no more than $4.33 on food a day, as many individuals in New York State will now have to. The two-week period will begin Sunday, Dec. 2 and, much to my chagrin, I cannot accept food from anyone (friends: cancel your dinner parties!)

Even though I've been warned against conducting this experiment during finals, I imagine the stress of managing a slim food budget during exam week cannot be any worse than the anxiety that manifests from managing said slim budget while employed or worse, out of employment. Worse still, operating on this budget with kids.

"'Can I deliver a nutritional experience?' You'll have an eating experience far outside of the mainstream, normative eating experience," Oles warns me.

While I cannot replicate the authentic, emotional experience that many millions of Americans undergo each day, I will have to contend with a new, minimalist lifestyle and hopefully learn what it feels like to be reliant on the tenuous decisions of policy-makers.

Anyone care to join? Visit Food Stamped. Email me at and follow me on Twitter: @alexhodorlee and #SkidmoreSNAPChallenge. 

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