What is it like to live on food stamps? Northern Kentucky University economist finds out

Mom puts family on strict grocery budget
Posted at 7:17 PM, Jul 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-26 19:21:33-04

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - Living on a budget is no easy task. Felicia Frazier and Janet Harrah can vouch for that.

Both have a strict grocery budget, but for different reasons.

Frazier puts in 50 hours of work and school per week and needs public assistance to feed her three kids.

Harrah, a Northern Kentucky University economist, wanted to understand what it's like to be on SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,    .

"You spend your money on bills, and then you don't have nothing left for food," said Frazier, whose children are 6, 2 and 1.

Harrah, senior director of the Center for Economic Analysis and Development at NKU, put her family of four on a monthly grocery budget of $650 -- just what they would qualify for on SNAP.

"I could walk a mile in those shoes just by trying that budget myself," she thought.

And what did she find out?

"You don't make the meat the entree, you make the meat an ingredient in soup," Harrah said.

Harrah realizes there's a bigger challenge she doesn't face - the struggling dynamics of poverty itself.

"I don't live in a food desert. I've got reliable transportation. I have a fully functioning kitchen," Harrah said.

Those issues can put additional pressures on people like Frazier.

"Like my tire just blew," Frazier said.

And that's not a minor inconvenience for someone stretched thin.

"I had to borrow money from people," Frazier said.

Harrah says she not ready to make any  public policy recommendations.

"I'm not quite ready to say what I think those might be, but I do think there's probably education on both sides, those receiving SNAP benefits and those who are voting on those issues," Harrah said.

Harrah says she will stick to that budget of $650 a month for food through the end of the year.