What celebrities who 'live on' food stamps don't get

Taking the 'SNAP Challenge' and buying just $4.50 of food a day is well-intentioned, but it misses the benefit program's point.

By Jonathan Berr Jun 21, 2013 10:15AM
Food stamp sticker on store window.More than 20 Democrats in Congress and other luminaries such as Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker and actor Ben Affleck have taken the "SNAP Challenge," trying to live on a daily food budget of $4.50 to draw attention to the plight of the poor. But according to the Washington Post's Fact Checker column, it's nonsense.

The $4.50 figure is derived from the average monthly benefit of $133.44 for one person on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), also known as food stamps. While that figure does seem pretty chintzy, SNAP Challenge misses a bigger point: SNAP was never designed to be someone's sole means for buying food.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "about 75 percent of SNAP participants use their own money in addition to SNAP benefits to buy food," the Post's Glenn Kessler writes. "Moreover, the maximum monthly benefits can quickly climb as the size of the household grows. A family of four, for instance, could receive as much as $668 a month for food. Indeed, households with children receive 71% of all SNAP benefits."

In addition, the USDA has a plethora of healthful recipes that cost $4.50 per serving and even some that are less than $1.50 per serving.

Still, even that $4.50-a-day allowance faces an uncertain future. On Thursday, the House of Representatives rejected a five-year, $500 billion farm bill that would have cut $2 billion annually from food stamps and permitted states to impose new work requirements on people who receive the benefits.

Spending on food stamps has doubled since 2008, reaching nearly $80 billion in fiscal 2012, and some conservatives have long argued the program is wasteful. A 2012 article from the Heritage Foundation called it "old and fossilized." As Kessler noted, some critics have challenged the SNAP Challenge by posting pictures on Twitter showing plentiful supplies of food that can be purchased through the program.

When it comes to costly entitlements like food stamps, Americans need a frank and honest discussion of their pros and cons -- not guilt-inducing publicity stunts such as the SNAP Challenge.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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Jun 21, 2013 1:26PM
When my husband left me and my three chidren, I received zero support from him.  I worked FT at a job making $9 an hour because it was the only thing that I could find at the time.  I received $200 a month in food stamps to help feed my children.  Had I not had those benefits at the time my children very likely would've went to bed hungry. Saying you cannot buy any sugary snacks or treats isn't the answer either.  I feed my kids plenty of home cooked, fresh foods, nothing pre-made.  It doesn't mean I didn't treat them to  something sweet once in a while as well.  We are all entitled to that.  Please don't bash ALL people receiving help, because some truely do need it.  I'm happy to report that within 3 months, I had a much better job and am now able to support my children without any assistance.
Jun 21, 2013 12:30PM
The problem really is not with the program itself, but with the governing of it. Some people who truly need this help and who would not abuse are often denied these benefits. There are people who abuse the system and its as though those people are never busted, but they ruin it for the others. My mother was on food stamps for a very breif period when I was small. She got laid off from her job at the same time as we lost my grandparents and we had no one to help us. She found another job, even though it was crappy and she actually ended up having to keep 3 jobs in order to get off food stamps. It was her pride - she was raised not to depend on other people. But she slept in her car and we literally only saw her about once every few weeks. Meanwhile most of our neighbors in the low-income neighborhood had at least 6 kids and they never worked or paid any of there bills. When my mom got the assistance she was required to look for and keep a job and we were constantly being inspected and "checked up" on. But none of the neighbors ever were and they were on food stamps for years. Some of them would even get their kids to do terribly in school so they would get put into special ed classes and then qualify for SSI. The people that regulate these programs don't do their jobs. If they did, people wouldn't get away with the abuse.
Jun 21, 2013 11:47AM

It pisses me off to food stampers buy energy drinks and junk food!  Just look around the supermarket food stampers don't have to look for sale items, look at unit prices, almost never buy store brand , they simple walk down the aisle and grab all the high priced junk.


I have three kids, my wife and I work so we have to limit our purchases so we can provide the bums with more.

Jun 21, 2013 12:11PM

That's why these young girls want more kids///////////// More snap money, bigger apartment, and a

whole host of other benefits when you increase the number of mouths you have to feed////// It was

never the job of the government to feed people but somehow all kinds of programs are developed

for the less fortunate or in most cases the people who know how to game the system/////////////////

Jun 21, 2013 12:44PM

Food Stamps are one of the most abused and wasteful social program this country has ever developed. A family of four receives more money monthly then my family of five spends a month on food. The amount paid out each month should be cut by at least one third. Purchases by food stamps should be (if not already) restricted to the following: Fresh/frozen non prepared meats & fish, fresh/frozen non prepared vegetables, deli meats/cheeses, canned goods, breads, non sweetened dairy, and non sweetened juices. The following should always be banned, and processes need to be in place where not already, to restrict: Soda, bottled water, power and energy drinks, sweetened juices, coffee, tea, ice cream, candy, energy bars, any pre-prepared meals or sandwiches, snacks/junk food. If these rules would be followed, and recipients would learn how to shop, no one would be hungry and we the taxpayers would save billions.

Jun 21, 2013 1:24PM

My mom worked hard all her life as a nurse's aid.  There were no benefits.  She worked until age 78.  Because of the low wages she was never able to save much.  She now gets $16.00 in food stamps per month to supplement her social security.  Why would you deny someone like her a little help?  She paid taxes in all of her life.  Is it her fault she couldn't get benefits?  She didn't take a dime from welfare all the time until she started receiving food stamps at age 81.


I do agree there are many people abusing the system.  They actually spent food stamps while taking long vacations.  I can't afford a vacation!  They also sell the food stamps to people who buy them at a discount rate.


I would like to see the system fixed to take away the stamps from those abusing them while allowing older people like my mom or people like my mom or families with seriously ill children, etc.


And yes, I do help my mom financially to the extent I am able.   Medical bills and other payments just eat up the budget.

Jun 21, 2013 1:09PM
I work in retail and yes you can buy certain energy drinks with food stamps if it has a nutritional label on it you can get it, i see how it is abused all the time. I cant even ask for I.D. to verify its there card, that's by law.. Why are they aloud to use snap in convenience stores where you pay 10 times more. cant tell you how many times I've seen people buy red bull at almost $5 a can with food stamps then turn around and buy the most expensive cigs in the store with cash, where's there priorities' where's there pride?? they don't have any they don't care just want that hand out....I believe in helping people but SNAP is a Joke it needs to be restricted like only food and beverage (not red bull) no candy and from a grocery store and maybe have to show I.D. so we know you didn't give the card to your drug dealer in exchange for your fix.. O yea happens all the time
Jun 21, 2013 11:58AM

 "about 75 percent of SNAP participants use their own money in addition to SNAP benefits to buy food," AND?  What is wrong with this?  GET A JOB!!!  I'm tired of supporting you!  There is way too much abuse of the system.

Jun 21, 2013 12:30PM
I'll never forget the time I saw the lady in front of me at the grocery store buy a bunch of lobster tails with food stamps. This was also at 2:30pm on a Tuesday... Keep it classy 'Murica.
Jun 21, 2013 11:59AM

That is why the government calls it a supplement program. The politicians need to look at the wording. It is not intended to totally supply all nourishment to a person. I say cut the program and make these people get out and find work.

This is the 48% that elected our current President.

Jun 21, 2013 12:49PM

I make quite a bit of money - but  I still eat for less than that per day for myself. I eat $1 can of chef -boy-r-d for lunch along with a <0.50 cent coke. I drink a 0.15 cent juice in the morning. Then for supper we eat some kind of meat and vegetables - divided across the family is less the $2 per person.


Total $3.75 per day.


 It used to be to take take care of MY family now its because I have to pay for everyone else's!!  So I don't see why it is a big deal personally. Many times I have walked through the store penny pinching while welfare recipients buy all the good stuff. I have no problem giving people a hand up - but make them work for it.....these hand outs have to stop!!

Jun 21, 2013 1:14PM

Way to many people abusing the system and no elected officials have the balls to do what is right and change it. To worried about votes. Even the right side would still be limited, just as many on their side who are on welfare.

The system needs a top down overhaul. Sad that the intent to help people down on their luck has turned into a full support system with generations of people never bothering to try to pull themselves up and do better.

Beside getting the clowns in DC to act here are a couple things I think need to be done (among many):

1) Only support up to two kids. Amount doesn't change after that. Don't like it don't have kids (I support free birth control for this very reason; much cheaper)

2) Random drug screens, and year long ban for those who fail. 2nd time 2yrs. 3rd time banned for life. We can do this and will be cheaper than keeping the druggies fed.

3) Felonies and convictions with in a certain amount following also lower what you can get. Just because your poor doesn't mean you need to commit crimes, though I know it is more tempting when desperate, but still trying to better yourself.

4) Limits on what can be bought and never ever any cash to be withdrawn. Sugary snacks and the like can't buy em.

5) Limits to how long one can be on and reviews of ones status and enforcement of this. No more generational welfare. You get so long to be on then you are dropped and must wait.

Some of this may sound cold but the system has to be reformed and playing nice isn't working. A cold hard shock is all that will work for many at this point. Get those, I better take action on my own to survive or else instincts going again. You have to want to help yourself and why would you if others will take care of you? Remove the crutch and you will see just how many can actually walk again.

I think its time

Jun 21, 2013 12:38PM
If you have never worked at a Food Bank & especially near the end of the month, you truly do not understand how much SNAP provides to a family with both parents working part-time jobs at minimum wage as that is all that is available to them.
Jun 21, 2013 3:39PM

I watched a lady with state of the art phones and her two kids 12 and 15 (approx.) had state of the art phones, with her black leather skirt, her leather jacket, her manicured long fingernails her black leather boots and her big hair job, purchase all kinds of food and brand name food items and then whip out her welfare card to purchase everything.  Her ring on every finger created a problem for her to swipe her Colorado welfare card and she had to have the clerk do it for her as she talked on the phone as where whe was going out with another couple.  She then went to her Cadillac Escalade to unload the groceries. 


Welfare, food stamps, are all a scam that government cant manage b ut keeps paying.  Welcome to America you schmucks, we are all being had  and unless we stand up to this its going to get worse.  The welfare and food stamp programs need re-evaluation and applicants need to reapply.


States need to have a hotline for welfare abuse and pursue it as a criminal activity rather than an oh well they must have needed it at one time.

Jun 21, 2013 12:26PM
Of course this is lost on the celebrities, do you really honestly believe that they are sticking to the $4.50 per day for a month? LIke Mayor Cory Booker, do you really think he did not have coffee or some type of snacks at the office that was already there and he probably was drinking it and snacking without any thought about it as its a normal routine. You want to try that life go live in the projectst and live as the typical project resident lives. Then you will see the real deal.
Jun 21, 2013 1:22PM
All this proves is that celebrities and congresspeople make incompetent poor people.
Jun 21, 2013 12:26PM
both my husband and i work and we can barely fed our family with our food stamps. I dont buy junk I menu plan and try to budget every penny. to the person who made the comment about energy drinks. You cant buy any kind of energy drink, protein bars, weight loss products, etc.... on food stamps it rejects and makes you pay cash.
Jun 21, 2013 12:46PM
Food stamp recipients should be in a database that restricts them from buying or possessing alcohol products, sugary foods, and fast foods. These are the people that need to be nannied into good eating habits.
Jun 21, 2013 1:51PM

Celebrities are so out of touch with reality since they live inside their gated communities, eat from the huge buffet tables on movie sets and are given special treatment everywhere simply because they starred in a leaked porno.  Yet Celebrities are the loudest to claim that they are the ones that understand and can relate to the plight of everyday working people because they played one once in a movie! So why do so many people worship out of touch celebrities?

Jun 21, 2013 1:57PM
Why aren't food stamps only good for beans and rice like WIC is only good for milk cheese and some dry goods?   If they can block cig. then they can block a whole lot more.
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