'Food stamp challenge' poverty wake-up call to US politicians

By agency reporter
November 12, 2011

A US interfaith TV cable channel has highlighted the recent "food stamp challenge" to challenge poverty and attitudes towards it in America.

The programme also looked at the effect the challenge had on Congress members who took it. The initiative was developed by the organisation Fighting Poverty with Faith, a multi-faith collaboration lead by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Council of Churches USA, Catholic charities and over 50 other faith-based groups to cut domestic poverty in half by 2020.

The challenge requires participating representatives to eat on a food stamp budget for a week, which provides $4.50 per day for food, or $31.50 for the week. The purpose is to allow those entrusted with legislative power to walk in the shoes of the 46 million Americans who live on food stamps, so that they might understand why the amount should be raised.

Odyssey Networks reveals the emotional reactions and thoughtful conclusions of two Congress members who lived the challenge: Rep. Keith Ellison (Democrat, Minnesota) and Rep. Eleanor Homes Norton (Democrat, District of Columbia).

Norton laments that nutritional favorites like fruit and fish are too expensive to purchase on the stamp budget. She says that as Americans wait for the new super-committee to determine what spending cuts will be made, it is important to remember the hungry and struggling.

Ellison realizes that the frustratingly difficult challenge will be over in a week for the Congress participants, but "for some people this is their life, and I think we need to have a little more compassion and remember that a budget is a moral document, and in that document we specify who matters and who doesn't, what matters and what doesn't..."

Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs says of the challenge, "It feels a little like being enslaved because once you purchase what can purchase, you can't eat another thing."

Ellison reflects on the fact that "the values of love and charity are shared by many faiths," and the opportunity to join with people of different faiths who care about the plight of others gives him hope for the future.

Established in 1987, Odyssey Networks is a service of the National Interfaith Cable Coalition, Inc. It has over 100 denominational, organisational and individual members, representing Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Baha'i, Sikh, Buddhism and Hinduism.

* The video can be viewed at odysseynetworks.org


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