Oregon governor to sample the 'food stamp challenge'

Published April 22, 2007

SALEM, Ore. - Gov. Ted Kulongoski and his wife are used to eating the best their bountiful state has to offer: fresh salmon, huckleberries and mushrooms foraged from the Cascade Mountains.

Next week will be different. They'll spend just $3 a day each on their meals, $42 in all, to match the amount spent by the average food stamp recipient in Oregon.

"My wife came up to me and said, 'Either you or the dog is going on a diet. I lost,' " Kulongoski quipped. Kulongoski and his wife, Mary Oberst, are the highest-profile people yet to take part in a "food stamp challenge," a trend sponsored by religious groups, community activists and food pantries across the country. The goal is to walk the proverbial mile in the steps of those who rely on food stamps to feed a family, to kindle awareness and empathy.

The challenge comes at a politically delicate juncture for the food stamp program. The Bush administration has proposed several cuts, among them taking away food stamps from about 185,000 people because they receive other noncash government assistance.

The Department of Agriculture budget, as proposed, would also eliminate a program that gives boxes of food to nearly half a million seniors each month.

Kulongoski, a Democrat, plans to lobby Congress to restore the proposed funding cuts.