Yesterday, in recognition of National Hunger Awareness Day, Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland announced that she would be taking the Food Stamp Challenge – living on $21 worth of food for a week, the average weekly benefit for a food stamp recipient.

You go girl!  Now that’s doing something.  I like your style.

"There are thousands of people in my district and the millions of people in the United States for whom hunger is a daily issue and who rely on food stamps to get by.  Taking the challenge not only shines a spotlight on hunger in our country, it also gives members of Congress a personal understanding of the daily reality of millions of Americans," said Lee.

In addition to raising the visibility of hunger in the United States and creating awareness of the difficulties faced by low income people in obtaining a healthy diet, Congressional participants in the challenge are hoping to build support for improving benefits and access to the food stamp program, which is due to be reauthorized this year as part of the Farm Bill.

Changes to the Food Stamp Program made during the welfare reform legislation in 1996 effectively eroded the purchasing power of food stamps, so while the price of food has increased, the value of the food stamps has not kept pace, resulting in the current average of approximately $1 per meal.

"This program provides a critical safety net," said Lee, who received food stamps when she was attending college as a single mother of two.  "I think it is important for the public to understand how many people rely on this program and just how limited their nutrition options are."

We all need to be taking this challenge.  I spend approximately $60 a week alone on my sugar-free-nonfat-vanilla-lattes that are precisely 140 degrees.  And after what I witnesses in West Africa that will soon be changing as well.