PITTSFIELD -- Joan Morrow understands the frustration of living on food stamps -- even if just for one week.

The Lee woman recently fed herself for seven days spending only $30.80, the average weekly allotment in Massachusetts for individuals enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Morrow learned firsthand the struggles of those who truly rely on the federally funded program.

"I was really angry, because this had to be done," she said. "I was having meals that weren't nutritious."

Morrow was among the nearly 20 people this month who took the SNAP challenge issued by six city churches. The majority of the group gathered Sunday evening at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church to share their experiences and give thanks for the food they receive every day.

The event opened with Rev. Quentin Chin of the First Baptist Church and Rev. Jennifer Gregg, associate pastor at St. Stephen's, celebrating Holy Communion, followed by a simple, healthy meal prepared in the church kitchen.

SNAP challenge participants found it financially and nutritionally difficult to live on the $30.80.

"I was able to get a value pack of chicken for $4.03, that's 10 drumsticks for the week," said Gregg. "But part of the reality was being hungry at points during the week."

Another reality is SNAP comes up short for many recipients with limited income, according to Tom Dillon.

"It's not enough money, even as a supplement," said Dillon, a counselor /advocate with the Pittsfield-base Project Reconnect that works with disadvantage children and young adults.

For Rosemary Hyde of Pittsfield, SNAP is a reality in taking care of her 65-year-old disabled, diabetic brother, who qualifies for food stamps. Since Hyde became his caregiver four years ago, she's learned to navigate SNAP's limitations.

"The nutrition part is always a challenge," she said.

Rev. Jennifer Gregg, associate pastor at St. Stephen’s, offers a loaf of bread during Holy Communion. (Ian Gray / Special to The Eagle)
Rev. Jennifer Gregg, associate pastor at St. Stephen’s, offers a loaf of bread during Holy Communion. (Ian Gray / Special to The Eagle)
"I buy nothing that's processed or has fillers."

Hyde and others called for changes in how Massachusetts administers food stamps, saying nutritional information should accompany the benefits.

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield), who took the legislative SNAP challenge, told the gathering that "basic home economics" is needed. He said it was time to restore spending on alternative ways to help the needy.

"We've cut programs that would get people off food stamps," Downing said. "You have more people staying on [SNAP] and we need to break that cycle."

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.