D.C. leaders take on 'Food Stamp Challenge'

Can you imagine living on $30 a week?

Several D.C. leaders will do just that, taking on a challenge to live on food stamps like those who depend on them to survive. It's called the "Food Stamp Challenge," and it boils down to about $4 a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Councilwoman Mary Cheh, Ward 3, is one of the district leaders participating in the challenge.

"$5.29. That's out," she said as she shopped for a week's worth of groceries.

Just like the 15 percent of Americans who use food stamps, Cheh is learning to live on less - 140,000 of them live in the D.C.

For Cheh, shopping this week means overlooking cravings. No chips and sweets, just the essentials on sale.

"I made a list of the things that I like to eat and that I would eat and could sustain me over the course of a week," Cheh explained.

Not a single item was dropped into the cart without first doing some math.

"I don't want to go over the amount," Cheh added.

When it came time to check out, Cheh's groceries were 27 cents over budget.{ }

"If I take a banana off, would that might work?," Cheh asked.

It did.

Other shoppers, like Jerome Roberts of D.C., didn't think they could do the same and keep their diets in check.

Roberts said, "For me, it's tough to do it under $150."

"I think healthy choices would be eliminated, and I'd probably have to resort to foods that were low cost and didn't have a lot of fiber...didn't have a lot of nutrients," said fellow shopper Kim Bobby.

Shopper Melissa Perry has one child and another on the way and believes the "Food Stamp Challenge" should get families thinking.

"I think it sends a very strong message to put us past this notion that people aspire or desire to get handouts as though one wants to be in that situation,' Perry said. "It's survival."

While Cheh may be surviving on $30 for just one week, she says the lessons learned will last much longer.

"The next time we have some hard choices to make about where we might spend money, we might think about nutrition and food and giving the basics to people who don't have it," Cheh said.

It's important to note this "Food Stamp Challenge" is just for food. You can't use the $30 on shampoo, detergent or soap. It begins Tuesday, Oct. 9.

As for Cheh, she's confident she'll make her groceries last.