She was hungry. She thought about food constantly. She envied others their fancy lattes that cost as much as she spent on food for a day.
She ate tuna casserole several days in a row.
U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier today described the experience of eating for a week on $4.50 a day -- the average amount allotted per person to food stamp recipients -- as uncomfortable but "profound."
Speier and other members of Congress last week undertook the Food Stamp Challenge to get a better sense of what life is like for those living on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population was using the program as of August, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"I realized how differently people live who are on the edge," said Speier, who said that a family of four is only eligible for food stamps if they earn less than $22,000 a year.
Roughly 100,000 people in San Mateo County use food stamps, Speier said last month.
"In San Mateo County, living on $22,000 a year and factoring in the rent, you know they're living on the edge if they're making less than that," she said today.
Marge Colapietro, the vice mayor of Millbrae, also undertook the challenge along with Speier, and said the experience made it clear how hard it would be to feed a family on food stamps.
"My mind was constantly thinking about the people who are on the food assistance program and what they go through as a family," Colapietro said. "It was incomprehensible to me how families on the program can manage, to me they're heroes in the truest sense of the word."
At the national level, Speier said the funding for food stamps is in jeopardy. A proposal from Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, would cut $9 billion from the program, despite growing demand fueled by rising unemployment.
"This is a good time to make the case," Speier said. "Americans are getting poorer and we need to speak up for the silent folks."
--Bay City News