Hank Johnson had to put the broccoli back. He couldn't afford it.
The congressman participated last week in the Food Stamp Challenge, where he chose to live on $31.50 worth of food for a week, which is the average weekly benefit for a food stamp recipient.
In recognition of National Hunger Awareness Day, Johnson went grocery shopping on Wednesday to highlight his opposition to a proposed $20 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).
"I think a lot of people have a misperception that being on food stamps is somehow a gravy train," Johnson said in a press release. "But that couldn't be further from the truth. It's hard to find nutritional food on such a limited budget.
"There are millions of people in the United States who go hungry every day and who rely on food stamps to get by," he added. "Taking the challenge not only highlights hunger in our country; it also gives me a better understanding of the daily reality of millions of Americans."
According to Johnson's office, more than 22,000 people in his Fourth Congressional District are enrolled in the program. The program helps more than 45 million people across the nation, the release adds, saying the majority of the people leave the program within nine months. But more than half of the recipients are children and 8 percent are over 60 years of age.
Johnson said changes to the program in 1996 "eroded the purchasing power of food stamps." Food stamps have not kept pace with the increase in the price of food, he said.
"This program provides a critical safety net," said Johnson. "I think it is important for the public to understand how many people rely on this program and just how limited their nutrition options are."
According to the release, 112,180 people in Gwinnett or 14 percent of the population live below the SNAP poverty threshold of $28,668 for a family of four.
Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.
Camie Young can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/politics.