by Staff | May 22, 2013 8:53 am
Chris Murphy voted Tuesday to try to keep the average food stamp recipient receiving $4.80 a dayóthen, stomach growling, went home for a second straight supper of chicken-flavored Ramen noodles.
Murphy, a freshman Democratic U.S. senator from Connecticut, was on the losing side of that food-stamp vote. The Senate voted down an amendment to stop a planned cut in food-stamp benefits (which some 427,000 people in Connecticut, and one in seven Americans in general, receive).
The vote occurred on the second day of a five-day experiment Murphy is undertakingóseeing what it takes to eat on that $4.80 a day, in order to gain insight into what votes like Tuesdayís mean for real human beings. Heís been checking in with the Independent to tell us how each day goes. (Click here for the report on Monday.) Following is an edited and condensed version of his responses to questions about lessons from Tuesdayís experience, which had as much to do with what he didnít eat as what he did:
I brought a banana in to work and held off eating it (or anything else) for as long as possible, so I could push off the hunger pains before lunch. I had the banana (pictured) around 10 oíclock.
Last night I did make chicken and rice [for advance lunch preparation]. I cooked the chicken legs and threw those in a bowl with some plain white rice. I had that for lunch today. It was good, but I didnít have much; I need the chicken and rice to last me for three meals. I probably had somewhere between 12 and 16 ounces of chicken and rice. I couldnít really flavor it with anything; I couldnít afford to buy flavoring or spices on the food stamp budget. It was just plain chicken and rice. It was good, but it didnít have a lot of taste to it. My chicken and rice lunch was probably in the neighborhood of two and a half dollars. Put that together with the banana, and Iím left with only a dollar or a little more for dinner. ...
I went to our caucus lunch today. Every Tuesday the Democratic senators get together for a weekly lunch. Itís in the Mansfield Room, one of the nice historic rooms in the Senate.
Itís a pretty good spread. Itís not gourmet; itís a lot of food. And itís buffet. You can eat to your heartís content. I didnít look at it today, because I knew I wasnít eating. Normally they have a chicken dish and a fish dish and small salad bar available and some dessert like chocolate cake or apple pie. Thereís plenty of food.
I had had my rice before I came to the lunch. I have yet to see any senator walk into this lunch with their own food, so I chose not to be the trendsetter.
I sat at a table with six or seven other senators as they chowed down a pretty good lunch. [Sen.] Martin Heinrich from New Mexico asked me: ďWhat, are you on a diet?Ē I explained to him what I was doing. He went back to eating his lunch. ...
Another part of the day I was at a meeting across the street at the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. They had some sandwiches that were sitting around from a prior meeting that day. Somebody heard I was on the food stamp challenge and offered me a sandwich thinking that was within the rules. I told them it would be a violation of the spirit if not the letter of the food stamp challenge.
I obviously passed. But it made me realize in my lifestyle, Iím pretty constantly surrounded by food. I generally pay for all my meals. But Iím at events all the time where thereís food; I just take that for granted. I recognize how I sort of take for granted the availability of food in my life; Iím never hungry. If Iím not eating something I bought, thereís normally food accessible at different events I go to during the day. People on food stamps are not in that situation. If they donít buy their food, their only other option is to go to a food pantry. Iím appreciating the abundance of food in my life and how Iíve kind of taken that for granted. If you really only eat the food that you buy, itís pretty easy to be hungry for good portions of the day.
Iíve been hungry for a good part of the day. ...
The Senate has become a millionaireís club over the years. So the worry is that when so many senators are worth a million dollars or more, they can get disconnected from what itís really like for the majority of people out there. Look, Iím not going to be able to put myself in the shoes of a food stamp recipient simply by living on their budget for a week. I still know I get to eat a big full dinner on Saturday afternoon. Iím not worried about my familyís ability to pay the rent or keep a roof over my kidsí head. If I really wanted to do the food stamp challenge, I would put my kids on that as well. To live with the agony of watching your kids go hungry too must be absolutely awful.
Iím two meals down, but I have very little money left for dinner unfortunately. I think I may have budgeted wrong today. I think I am likely stuck with Ramen for a second night in a row for dinner. I only bought chicken [flavored noodles]; I couldnít afford too much variety.
óAs told to Paul Bass