On the faith beat: Getting by on $31.50 a week in groceries

  • Article by: ROSE FRENCH
  • Star Tribune
  • November 2, 2012 - 6:19 PM

Curious to find out what it's like to eat on $31.50 a week -- the average per-person food allotment given to food stamp recipients?

The "Food Stamp Challenge" program organized by a group of Minnesota faith leaders aims to explore that question by giving participants a glimpse into the challenge of eating on little money.

Organized by some 15 Twin Cities community and religious groups -- Muslim, Christian and Jewish -- the demonstration is Nov. 11 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. Participants will go to a Cub Foods store and buy $31.50 worth of groceries and then attend a program on different religious groups' teaching on caring for the poor. For the next week, some participants promise to eat only the food bought with their $31.50.

"People of faith tend to be aware of hunger in disaster zones and times of humanitarian disaster and in the global south," said Rabbi Amy Eilberg, a consultant with the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at the University of St. Thomas.

"But the statistics are really horrifying and quite consistent that a very large percentage of households in the U.S. ... live in a chronic state of food insecurity."

Eilberg said the program is meant to be "a tool to raise awareness ... of the presence of hunger in our community."

The program will be followed by a Nov. 18 event at two St. Paul locations. Participants will serve food at the Family Place and then meet at First Baptist Church next door to hear from those who pledged to live on the $31.50 budget. They'll also learn about ways to fight hunger in Minnesota. All of the programs are open to the public.

Eilberg said she participated in a similar program last year and found it "really hard. After I bought staples [like milk and bread], there was hardly anything left for fruits and vegetables. ... It's really to call attention to, in a partial way, to imagine something of what the reality of poverty would be."

Rose French • 612-673-4352

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