Monday, December 6, 2010

Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak takes the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge

Pittsburgh City Council’s Natalia Rudiak will be putting conspicuously less of her money where her mouth is starting December 6.

For five days (Dec. 6 – 10), Ms. Rudiak will be taking part in the SNAP Challenge, a poverty simulation exercise coordinated by Just Harvest, a Southside-based anti-hunger organization and created by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) in Washington D.C.

The challenge is named for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), upon which a record 42 million Americans depend to put meals on the table. In Allegheny County alone, over 150,000 households and individuals receive SNAP benefits.

For the first three days of the challenge, Rudiak will be allotted the total benefit amount per day for a SNAP recipient who reports no income – this amounts to $6.67 per day total. On Thursday and Friday, this benefit amount will be reduced by 50 cents to reflect a cut to SNAP benefits passed by Congress on Dec. 2 in order to fund the ‘Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act,’ aimed at improving child nutrition programs in schools. Starting in 2013, SNAP benefits will be reduced by $2.2. billion under the act. Benefits for a family of four would drop by $59 per month, according to FRAC.

The 'Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act' had been roundly criticized by child nutrition advocates across the country who contend that by subsidizing school meal programs with SNAP benefit funds, it effectively increases the risk of hunger for children and low-income families. Advocacy efforts have now turned to lobbying Congress to restore the SNAP cuts by some means before the close of the ‘lame duck’ session.

Rudiak has pledged to document her experience eating under the SNAP constraint via Facebook and Twitter updates (, as well as here on Just Harvest’s blog, so watch this space for updates!

“We’re thrilled that Councilwoman Rudiak is taking on the SNAP challenge, as we feel her high profile will bring due public attention to the hardships that so many of our neighbors face in trying to maintain a healthful diet on a fixed allotment,” said Tara Marks, Just Harvest Co-Director.

Just Harvest invites others in our region to take part in the SNAP Challenge! If you are interested, send an e-mail to for guidelines and details.

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