Coloradoan Issues a Real Food Challenge; Denver Media Run for Cover
- Most of those engaging in it claim that the average Food Stamp recipient "only has $21 per person per week to buy food."
- The fact is that the program's monthly benefits (often referred to "Allotments"; scroll to the bottom for the monthly benefit table), when converted to weekly, range from $26.81 - $35.67 per person per week, depending on family size:
- Benefits are reduced for many recipients, on the whole to the national average of $21, because other available resources (e.g., income from work and other sources) are considered in the program's benefit formulas.
- Therefore, the Challenge's fundamental claim that recipients "only have $21 per person per week to buy food" is demonstrably false.
- Local, regional, and national Old Media outlets all the way "up" to the Washington Post have been duped, and in turn have duped readers, into believing that Food Stamp families "only have $21 per person per week to buy food."
Despite the fact that he and his family could prove their point by getting by on the higher Allotments the Food Stamp Program allows, Coloradoan Ari Armstrong of The Colorado Freedom Report, in issuing his a counter-challenge known as "The Serious Food Economy Challenge," is promising that his family will live on the artificially low and misreported $21 per person per week. What's more, unlike the poseurs making a show of how difficult it is to stay within that $21 for one week, Armstrong, starting on August 1, promises that his family will stay within that $21 per person per week -- for a full six months.
"The argument that the food stamp budget should be increased because it's impossible to eat nutritiously on $3 or $3.57 per person per day is fallacious. And my wife and I are prepared to prove it. All we ask for our trouble is that the advocates of more tax spending for food stamps agree to fund the nonprofit of our choice once we prove them wrong."
Armstrong has imposed a number of restrictions on himself and his family to prevent objectors from accusing him of playing games or of accomplishing something that is not practical. Among them:
- He will attempt to record the approximate time spent shopping and preparing meals, in order to forestall the excuse that the exercise would be too time consuming for most people.
- The family will "will not accept any free food, except that they may host dinner parties in exchange for attending dinner parties later with the guests on a one-for-one basis, attend dinner parties at which each guest brings a comparable amount of food, and eat Thanksgiving and Christmas meals with friends and/or relatives."
- To forestall complaints that they are taking advantage of something that many of the poor would not have access to, they won't buy food at Costco, even though they are members.
- In what some might consider the ultimate sacrifice, they "will not drink any beer or wine outside of the alloted budget, because those drinks contain significant calories" that might be seen as substitutes for food calories.
Armstrong challenged those who must clearly believe that what he and his family are attempting cannot be done, including local math-averse Denver Post reporters (who multiplied $3 by 7 and got $25 in this article), to put their money where their faux-starving mouths are:
Following the six-month period, if the Armstrongs have spent less than $1,080 on food, those who agreed to fund the challenge must contribute $10 to the nonprofit of the Armstrongs' choice for every $1 that the Armstrongs have saved out of the total budget. If more than that amount has been promised, the total contribution will be split among all those who have promised a contribution, in proportion to the maximum contributions specified. The contributors must then send a check directly to the nonprofit specified no later than February 29, 2008.
Post reporters are among the legions in Old Media who have swallowed the premise of the original Food Stamp Challenge whole. Reported Bill Scanlon some even chronicled his attempts at staying within the incorrectly calculated $25 at his blog.
Armstrong sent an op-ed to the Post to issue his Serious Food Economy Challenge, also sending separate e-mails to a number of reporters and each member of the Post's editorial board. The op-ed was rejected. Armstrong notes that only one reporter responded, indicating that she wouldn't take up his challenge.
Though some elements of Armstrong's Challenge are not crystal clear to me (e.g., what is his penalty if his family goes over the self-imposed $1,080 limit for his family of three during the six months?), it is interesting that the Post is summarily rejecting the claim of a taxpayer that Food Stamp benefits are sufficient to meet poor families' needs and is willing to prove it, while blindly accepting the notion that benefits are inadequate from politicians who would clearly benefit if they could in effect buy votes by being seen as "leaders" in expanding the program.
Armstrong's is a Challenge that bears watching.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.