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Ohio Challenge: Can You Live on $23 for Five Days?

April 30, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Imagine having just $23 to spend on food for five days. That's what life is like for the average food-stamp recipient. A new challenge is encouraging all Ohioans see if they could live on the same budget.

The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies is launching the Food Stamp Challenge today. Executive director Phil Cole says participants get a view of what life can be like for low-income families.

"To take part in this challenge, what you have to do is learn how to eat on $1.54 per meal, and that's not easy. Some have said that people on food stamps chose to do that. Well, if people chose to do that, we'd have a lot more people signing up to volunteer to do this."

Cole says they're hoping to increase awareness around continued poverty and hunger in the state, especially since a U.S. Congressional panel just approved over $33 billion in cuts over 10 years from food stamp benefits.

Morrow County Home Energy Assistanct Program (HEAP) director Bob Foreman is among those participating in the challenge. He says it will be a real eye-opener, and he encourages others to sign up.

"It's a week to see how hard it is to actually live on a budget, and it's quite a low budget, and see exactly how fortunate we are, the ones who do have jobs and are able to afford a little bit more better things."

Last year, 1.75 million Ohioans received food stamps.

Challenge participants should only purchase items eligible through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Cole says items not allowed include nonfood items, such as soap, household supplies, paper products and medicines.

"You see people going into grocery stores and they have their card for food stamps, but they're not allowed to buy diapers or laundry detergent or other things they need, so they are looking for the best buy they can get, which is often some of the cheaper, less nutritious foods."

Cole says those who can't join the challenge are encouraged instead to donate money or food to their local food pantry.

The challenge begins today and runs through Friday. Information on the challenge is available on the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies website, www.oacaa.org. Those who sign up are encouraged to share their experiences through e-mail and video.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH