As the number of Americans receiving food stamps increases – it has now reached an all time high of more than 21 and a half million households – an ongoing debate over whether the system is working has emerged.
Last fall, over a dozen members of Congress took the “Food Stamp Challenge” to see what it was like to live solely on a food stamp budget for a week. Bay Area representatives Barbara Lee of Oakland and Jackie Speier of San Mateo both participated. Congresswoman Lee had to live on four dollars and fifty cents a day.
One Wednesday night, just after nine o’clock as Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco closed, I notice a small group of people rummaging through the store’s three dumpsters. I see a man look at the time and say, “Oh they’re closing now – let’s go check the dumpster.” Another woman, also digging into the trash, says: “I gotta admit, it’s kind of like Christmas.”
Beside the contents of the three industrial size dumpsters, employees had placed boxes full of fruit: dozens of apples, pears and lemons. About five people of various ages and races rummage through an enormous amount of food.