Valley organization takes food stamp challenge

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by Brandy Aguilar, Special Projects

azfamily.com

Posted on September 16, 2011 at 4:08 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 16 at 4:41 PM

PHOENIX -- “You kind of go in and buy what you want and need, but for people who are struggling, it's a much different situation,” Kelly McGowan said.

McGowan is voluntarily doing something more than 1 million Arizonans are forced to do -- live on a food stamp budget. The money comes from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program also known as SNAP.

“It’s seven days where we're trying to live off the typical food stamp or SNAP allotment that an individual or family would get,” McGowan said.

McGowan is with the Arizona Community Action Association. She and her co-workers are taking the challenge to not spend more than $29 this week for food. This amount is based on the average SNAP gives an individual for a month.

“There is a sense especially in the beginning of rationing the food that you've purchased because you don't want to go a day or two without eating,” McGowan said.

Going without food is one thing, but McGowan now understands how living on a tight budget means something else.

“I realized how difficult it was for families with children to provide healthy nutritious meals for them,” McGowan said.

“We definitely recommend shopping sales,” Katie Kahle said. “We definitely recommend knowing what you’re going to eat going into the week, otherwise you'll end up with two days left and nothing left to eat.”

Kahle is also with the Arizona Community Action Association. This is her second year doing the challenge.

“Our primary goal is to educate,” Kahle said. “Let people know information about the program. What you can and can't purchase on the program. It's also to give people the opportunity to sort of get a sense of what it's like to participate in SNAP benefits.”

While she's also run into obstacles like McGowan, Kahle believes the SNAP program can be a lifesaver.

“SNAP is one of the most effective programs for fighting poverty that we have,” Kahle said.

Monique Barrios knows that firsthand. She had to use the program to feed her four kids.

“It was embarrassing for me to have to walk into the Department of Economic Security office, but to know it was going to feed my children was different,” Barrios said. “It’s a stepping stone and to look at it as there's hope in the end. “

McGowan hopes by doing this challenge, it will inspire others to do the same.

“I would ask them to attempt to do the challenge themselves,” McGowan said. “I think it would give them a lot of empathy and when they realize the extent of the problem to go ahead and help their neighbors, friends and communities.”

For more information:
Arizona Community Action Association, www.azcaa.org
Arizona Self Help, www.arizonaselfhelp.org  

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