Ore. Gov. Starts Week on Food Stamps

Oregon Governor Starts Week on Food Stamps to Highlight Challenge Other Recipients Face
By JULIA SILVERMAN

SALEM, Ore. Apr 25, 2007 (AP)— If Gov. Ted Kulongoski seems a little sluggish this week, he’s got an excuse: he couldn’t afford coffee.

In fact, the Democratic governor couldn’t afford much of anything during a trip to a Salem-area grocery store on Tuesday, where he had exactly $21 to buy a week’s worth of food the same amount that the state’s average food stamp recipient spends weekly on groceries.
Kulongoski is taking the weeklong challenge to raise awareness about the difficulty of feeding a family on a food stamp budget.

Accompanied by reporters and food stamp recipient Christina Sigman-Davenport, Kulongoski headed straight for a display of organic bananas, only to have Sigman-Davenport steer him toward the cheaper non-organic variety.

The governor pined wistfully for canned Progresso soups, but at $1.53 apiece, they would have blown the budget.

He settled instead for three packages of Cup O’Noodles for 33 cents apiece. Kulongoski also gave up his usual Adams natural, no-stir peanut butter for a generic store brand, but drew the line at saving money by buying peanut butter and jelly in the same jar.
“I don’t much like the looks of that,” said Kulongoski, 66, staring at the concoction.

Other shoppers in the store were bemused by Kulongoski’s quest.

“Obviously, he doesn’t shop often,” Barb Sours of Salem said, as Kulongoski bounced around the aisles in search of granola. “He’s all over the place.”

Kulongoski did pause to chat with shoppers John and Bonnie White of Salem, telling them all about his $21 limit.

“Don’t spend it all in one place,” John White warned.

Along the way, Sigman-Davenport, a mother of three who works for the state Department of Human Services and went on food stamps in the fall after her husband lost his job, dispensed tips for shopping on a budget. Scan the highest and lowest shelves, she told the governor. Look for off-brand products, clip coupons religiously, get used to filling, low-cost staples like macaroni and cheese and beans, and, when possible, buy in bulk.

At the check-out counter, Kulongoski’s purchases totaled $21.97, forcing him to give back one of the Cup O’Noodles and two bananas, for a final cost of $20.97 for 19 items.

After the hourlong shopping trip, Kulongoski said he was mindful that his week on food stamps will be finite and that thousands of others aren’t so lucky.

“I don’t care what they call it, if this is what it takes to get the word out,” Kulongoski said, in response to questions about whether the food stamp challenge was no more than a publicity stunt. “This is an issue every citizen in this state should be aware of.”

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