CNN journalist Sean Callebs has given himself a month to live on the same amount that a one-person household must live on under the U.S. food stamp program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP).
I recommend that we all give it a try. According to Callebs’ research, that means each individual should spend just $176 per month on groceries.
While Callebs may have a hidden agenda (because as a writer/journalist, Callebs has something at stake in having a story at the end of the adventure), I think the experiment might give us all a wake-up call. For those of us who rarely give poverty a second thought, there is a great benefit in living a simpler life and learning how to funnel the savings into our parish food pantries and charities.
There may be some who think that I live in a dream world. What could I possibly know about food stamps and what it is like to live on them?
I know. I’ve done it – out of necessity, unlike Mr. Callebs. Once when I was in college and had two very small children. And once when I was a single mother with three elementary-aged children.
It taught me how to live on a grocery budget. I haven’t always held myself to that standard of frugality, but I find that I can do it. I still remember how to do it. And in the last year, I have tried to live like I did back then. You see, when I am able to drastically cut back on consumables, like groceries, there is more to give.
All those years ago, one could not buy anything but food with food stamps. I don’t know if that is still the case. I remember what that was like, and so I give paper products and feminine hygiene products and all those things I once struggled to buy when I drop my contribution off at the food pantry.
There is a lot one can learn from walking in the shoes of the poor and needy. I’ll say it again, I think everyone should give it a try – and the money they save should go to their local food pantry or favorite charity.
Politics aside, it is the Church that should be about the business of feeding the poor. But the Church can’t do it if you don’t help.
The poor followed Jesus – not much of a surprise when you consider that he fed them. But they stayed long enough to hear his message, too. Is it any wonder that today's poor seek leaders who will help them (or who say they will help them)?
Let’s be Our Lord’s hands and feet.