Family experiments with trying to survive on food stamps

Tricia and Dion Morrow are your typical American family. They have two sons, Dashiell and Macy, and they both work. Paying for food is not a problem.

Tricia says they typically spend between $130 and $150 in groceries every week.

It’s hard to understand what it’s like when money’s tight, unless you’ve lived it. So, as many struggle in this economy, the Morrow family was put to the ultimate test by a local TV station. They had to live an entire week as if they were on food stamps.

To do that, a fake scenario was created. If the Morrow family got $1500 a month in unemployment, the Illinois Department of Human Services? would qualify them for $83.25 cents a week in food stamps. Once they knew that, they went shopping.

About the shopping challenge, Dion says, “I really enjoyed being able to say we really don’t need this. This is something that we can live without.”

Food stamps cover just about anything edible, except alcohol. But you can’t use them to go out to eat. That might be a challenge for the kids. They have a lot of favorites.

“I want to eat french fries with barbecue sauce,” says young Macy

The Morrows planned out their meals in advance, for the whole week.

“Instead of getting the really nice hot dogs that we like, which can be four to five dollars a package, we went for the $.89 hot dogs,” says Dion Morrow.

Shirley R. Burks, a public service administrator for The Human Services Department says planning ahead is the key to surviving on food stamps.

“I do think if you have shoppers who have good shopping skills and good meal planning skills, I do think that a family can eat comfortably on the amount of benefits,” says Burks.

The bad economy means families, just like the Morrows, who never needed help before, do now.

“Now at this point, we have people who are not able to find work of any kind, so those are the households that we are seeing because they have no other avenues to turn to,” says Burks.

But the Morrows did have another place to turn, which made it hard to stick to the plan completely.

By the time the challenge was over, Tricia says the family was ready to go back to life as usual. “We’ve already gone back. That first weekend after our test week, we spent twice. I have a lot of respect for people who have to live on food stamps.”