Larry Velequette’s report in the Blade (“Welfare’s $21-a-week food limit daunting challenge for Lucas County officials”) is here:
Here is my e-mail:
Dear Mr. Vellequette and Ms. McLaughlin,
Mr. Vellequette’s September 19 report on the Toledo-area version of the Food Stamp Challenge was incorrect on basic facts, and requires correction.
Fundamentally, $21 a week per person is NOT what “the U.S. government believes is adequate” for Food Stamp program beneficiaries “to feed themselves,” as Mr. Vellequette reported.
Instead, the following lists what the government, in essence, believes is adequate. It is based on information at this USDA link (scroll to bottom):
This table is consistent with, though not identical to, what USDA analysis has shown is needed to feed families of various sizes under a “Thrifty Plan”:
The $21 per person per week being used in the Food Stamp Challenge is actually the average benefit AFTER taking into account resources that a person or family are expected to spend on food out of their own income and assets. This is based on an analysis of each family’s situation. The USDA web site describes the process in more detail.
This means that the statement in Mr. Vellequette’s report about what “the U.S. government believes is adequate to feed” Food Stamp participants is false beyond redemption. Therefore, the entire premise behind the Food Stamp Challenge, both locally and nationally, is irretrievably flawed.
Food Stamp Challenge organizers and participants have not attempted to identify any shortcomings in the needs-based formula, nor are they attempting to prove that the amounts in the table above are not enough to buy food. Challengers who are single, like Commissioner Konop, should be trying to spend less than $35.67 during their Challenge week. Three-person families like Wozniaks should be trying to stay within $93.90 (3 x $31.30), not $63. Perhaps with $94 (almost 50% more) to work with, Ms. Wozniak will be less “frightened.”
The Blade should also know that a couple in Colorado spent a whole month living within the (incorrect) $21 per person per week. Ari and Jenny Armstrong succeeded, with very careful but not heroic efforts. They have posted a complete log of how they spent only $159 in a August — well under $3 per person per day, and $125 less than the $284 the Food Stamp program would have allowed:
Liberty Food Challenge Log
As you can see, Mr. Armstrong is copied on this e-mail. I am certain that he would be very willing to share his insights on how he and his wife did what county commissioners appear to believe is impossible. Armstrong’s report has money-saving insights that could benefit all of your readers, even beyond the 67,000-plus Lucas County residents Mr. Vellequette reported as being on Food Stamps.
The Blade owes its readers a comprehensive correction. Further, your newspaper owes Lucas County Commissioners, as well as those promoting the Food Stamp Challenge locally and nationally, quite a few follow-up questions.
UPDATE: At Maggie Thurber’s suggestion, a copy of this letter, with appropriate introduction, was also sent to each of Toledo’s four network-affiliated TV stations (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox).