Taking the challenge

Last week, by a vote of 217-210, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut $40 billion from the federal food stamps program over the next 10 years.

Not surprisingly, all 217 votes in favor of the cuts came from Republicans, including Washington Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Doc Hastings and Dave Reichert. The 195 Democrats voting against the cuts were joined by 15 Republicans who crossed the party divide in opposition.

It’s an issue I can see from both sides.

It’s clearly a system that needs reform. A poor economy, steady cost-of-living increases in nearly every other aspect and a dwindling middle class, coupled with the inevitable fraud that's going to come with a government handout, have caused food stamp expenditures to balloon.

However, I also believe — in much the same way as politicians debating health care reform — that Washington, D.C. lawmakers are out of touch with the majority of the people they represent. The all-too-easy assumption is people on food stamps are simply lazy and unwilling to work.

In some situations, that might be the case. But I tend to believe those cases are in the minority.

Either way, it’s a system that clearly needs reform.

It cannot continue to be a free and easy government handout that benefits those who choose not to work, but there needs to be a reasonable system in place to prevent those in need from going hungry. It should be the mark of a great country — and especially one that touts itself as the richest and greatest country in the world — that people who fall on hard times are not relegated to starvation. A truly great country should be judged not by how it treats the most affluent members of its society, but by how it treats the weakest.

Okanogan County Community Action Council recently posed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Challenge to area residents to see if, or how they would go about, living on the average monthly allowance provided to Washington residents receiving benefits.

The amount was $29.56 for all food and beverage per week — a number that is likely to drop if cuts at the federal level pass the Senate.

In the name of science and curiosity — and because I need something to write about this week — I’ve decided I'm going to give the SNAP Challenge a try starting the moment this week's paper heads to the press.

I’m going to see whether or not I can do it at all, and track whether or not I consider the meals to be healthy and tasty. My biggest roadblock is probably my need to “run for the border” about once or twice a week to grab a quick fast food meal when work deadlines approach too quickly.

By this time next week, I’ll write about my success or failure and what I learned along the way.

Garrett Rudolph is the managing editor of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via email at grudolph@omakchronicle.com.

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