JCRC Update: Food Stamps and Elections

[by Matt Goldberg, Director]
Jewish Community Relations Council

Food Stamp Challenge

As of the writing of this column, several members of our community, including me, are taking the Food Stamp Challenge – an agreement to spend no more than $31.50 for the week on food (the average of what a food stamp recipient receives) in order to raise awareness for continued support for the Food Stamp program or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funded by the federal government and administered by the states.

Although I have just started, two things have become abundantly clear.

First, it IS possible to live on $31.50 for the week for food.

Shopping is a unique experience while doing this challenge, as EVERY food choice is an economic decision as opposed to a nutrition or taste decision. The staples that enable us to meet the Food Stamp Challenge are spaghetti, rice, lentils, beans and bananas. Eggs are also very economical as a primary source of protein. Peanut butter and jelly on bread is affordable when you get value brands, or items on sale.

Second, while it is possible to live on $31.50, it is not easy or healthy.

Eating out is practically unheard of, as an average of $1.50 per meal eliminates most restaurant choices. Furthermore, fresh fruits and vegetables are cost prohibitive.

Protein must come from eggs and beans, as opposed to meat and fish. I am eating a lot of canned vegetables, like green beans and corn. Fresh fruit is difficult; bananas are cheap … but not much else. I hope that other people participating in the program are better shoppers than I am, because it is a struggle to make this work (that is the idea, I guess).

The SNAP program now covers the bare minimum of what a person should eat over the course of a week, and it really should be expanded. If the program is cut or altered in any way, it will not even cover this bare minimum, and it will make the hunger problem in our country that much more acute. Today, 46 million Americans depend on this program to supply basic minimum food needs.

Important Elections in Israel

Elections in Israel are always a time of great uncertainty, and this week is no exception. An estimated 15 percent of the electorate was still undecided as of election day. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be forming the next government, but what that government will look like is still very much up in the air.
Elections were held Tuesday, and as I write this column, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s joint list party of Likud-Yisrael Beitenu is projected to get 32 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, the largest party by far. But there are many parties that could have a role in the next government.

On the right, there is Habayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home Party), whose platform is that most associated with the religious Zionist movement, and they are poised to possibly have a role in the next government. Other right leaning parties include the other various religious parties and the far right Otzma L’Yisrael (Strength to Israel), also possibilities to be in a narrow, right leaning, Netanyahu led government.

It will be up to Prime Minister Netanyahu to form the next government and it is possible that he could look to form a governing coalition with the center left parties of Labor, Yesh Atid, and Hatnua. This would seem to be more conducive to peace talks with the Palestinians, as all three of these parties have intimated that they would not sit in a government with Prime Minister Netanyahu unless there was more movement on the peace-talks front.

It will be a very interesting next few weeks as the horse-trading that is Israeli political coalition building begins in earnest.

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