11/29/2011 01:50 pm ET

$31.50: A Reasonable Family Food Budget?

By Hannah Morgan
Street Sense

A 17-ounce box of Frosted Flakes cereal costs around $3 in many local stores. Add a gallon of milk, another $4, and four bananas, $1.56, and the total comes to around $9, not including tax. That’s almost a third of what many American families can afford to spend on food in a week, and that barely covers breakfast.

In response to the National Food Stamp Challenge, at least eight members of Congress, joined by community and religious leaders, decided to live on $31.50 for one week, the average weekly allotment received by millions of Americans living on food stamps. They met outside the Capitol Hill Safeway store on a recent rainy morning. Huddled among umbrellas and empty shopping carts, they spoke to a crowd of food stamp participants and members of the media about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the official name for the food stamp program since 2008.

The event was sponsored by a coalition of four major faith-based organizations: Catholic Charities USA, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and the Islamic Society of North America. The groups all united under the banner to “Fight Poverty with Faith”. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said,“we need to fight poverty with faith because we are not doing so well fighting poverty with policy.”

Then she, along with other participants, teamed up for a low-budget race through the store, scanning for items on sale and comparing the prices of breakfast cereals and oatmeal packets.

Street Sense is biweekly nonprofit newspaper publishing on issues pertaining to homelessness and poverty, sold by homeless individuals on the streets to help them earn an honest income. To donate directly to Street Sense, click here.

RELATED VIDEO: Food Stamp Challenge