Sunday, May 6, 2007
Eating on $3 a day
MAY 6, 2007 - - Imagine if you had to live on $3 a day for
"That's not a meal at McDonald's," remarked Jermaine
Husser, director of the Lowcountry Food Bank, which annually
provides food to more than 154,000 people in 10 coastal area
But $3 a day is almost exactly the average daily amount awarded
to South Carolinians on food stamps.
And it's the same average daily assistance provided to folks
in Oregon, whose governor recently lived on $3 a day (per
person) with his wife to raise awareness of hunger and to
encourage the federal government to preserve benefits at the
current level. For a week, they ate peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches at lunch, stretched a chicken over several meals
and made do with less. By the end of the week, the governor
told the press he was cleaning his plate - no matter what
was on it.
"What a person can buy for $3 a day can't be healthy
food that's going to get you a healthy diet," Husser
Oregon, like South Carolina, has a persistently high unemployment
rate. With unemployment often comes hunger. Oregon's recent
rate, fueled by lingering declines in the timber industry,
is 5.2 percent. The Palmetto State's rate, hampered by the
loss of manufacturing jobs and a rural economy in much of
the state, is 5.9 percent. The national average is 4.4 percent.
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, reelected last year to a second
term, made reducing hunger an issue in his 2002 race. Since
then, it has dropped from having one of the nation's highest
hunger rates to middle of the pack, according to media reports.
Kulongoski told The New York Times that his week-long food
stamp diet of eating less affected him: "I went to bed
earlier because I was tired at the end of the day." He
said he didn't think it bolstered his political muscle, but
might have left something in the minds of Oregonians about
plan to march in Charleston on June 5 during National
Hunger Awareness Day.
Unfortunately in Oregon, like South Carolina, thousands of
people who use food stamps could be disqualified if eligibility
rules are restricted as outlined in a proposed farm bill.
South Carolina, which received $566 million in food stamp
program money from the federal government in 2005, can't afford
to receive less in assistance for the hungry. The money it
currently gets isn't enough, Husser said.
According to the Food Research and Action Center, an average
of 521,125 South Carolinians received food stamps every month
in 2005. The rate of participation has increased over recent
years, but still only two-thirds of those eligible participated.
Husser's agency, which distributes 9 million pounds of food
annually through 320 agencies along the coast, works to provide
food to people who aren't helped enough by food stamps, or
who fall through the cracks and don't get the assistance they
He said participation rates in the food stamp program were
lower than they should be because of the red tape people have
to go through to get the help.
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"We leave money on the table" and don't get what
we could from the federal government because of the red tape,
Among the things state lawmakers could do to relieve food
- Raise the minimum wage. If people earn more, they're
less likely to need assistance and more likely to be able
to buy what they need.
- Adopt an Earned Income Tax Credit. If the state
were to adopt this credit modeled after a federal version,
disadvantaged people would have more disposable income to
meet basic needs.
- Cut red tape. The state could review DSS procedures
to find ways to streamline help so it doesn't take weeks
to get. A lot of times when people apply, they need food
on a particular day - - not weeks down the road.
- Participate in National Hunger Awareness Day on June
5. If lawmakers (and newspaper columnists) go on a one-day
fast as recommended on this day, they're more likely to
be sensitized to needs of the hungry. To learn more, go
You can reach Andy Brack, publisher of
SC Statehouse Report, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:
- 4/22: Enjoy
seeing them while you can, Janie Behr, Florence,
- 4/15: Great
piece, Pat Jobe, Greenville, SC
- 4/4: SC
should take head out of sand, Daniel Berler, Mount
- 4/3: Don't
condemn people for choices, Elizabeth S. Bunker,
Fountain Inn, SC.
- 4/2: Sanford
would be good veep, Terry L. Bowyer, Lyman, SC
- 3/26: House
off-base on ultrasound vote, Ree Mallison, West Columbia,
- 3/25: Condemns
abortion, George W. Dargen, Darlington, SC
- 3/20: Payday
lending is sought-after service, Ken Compton, Spartanburg,
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