by Anum Valliani
WEST TEXAS - Nearly 13 percent of the state needs governmental help buying food and one group has found a way to get people to notice.
The Texas Civil Rights Project is participating in a weeklong SNAP challenge. That's so they can understand how people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are living.
It's day 2 of the SNAP challenge and it's getting rough.
"It's not a regular day when you're cutting down to $4.50 cents a day," Emily Marruffo, Coordinator at TCRP, said.
Earlier this month, the government reduced the benefits to even less than that, so the TCRP felt that it was time to try their hand at surviving on the budget and bringing awareness.
Those simulating for a week said it's already taking a toll on their routine.
"You have to learn to cook differently, you have to learn to combine, the lack of what you don't have and make a meal out of that and how do you do that?" Marruffo said.
But she hasn't been tempted to quit or even to cheat.
"The importance of why we're doing this keeps you truthful, keeps you honest. It's not for me and I'm not suffering. It's not like I'm going to go away, fade away if I don't eat my regular meals during the week. But it's a challenge and it's to show support, so no temptation there," Marruffo said.
The support she mentioned is for people like Bonnie Dugas of Midland, who lives off of SNAP benefits, or at least tries to.
"I don't think it's enough what they're giving us," she said.
According to TFAC staff, West Texas has a larger number of people seeking food assistance than in years past.
Both Marruffo and Dugas talked about having to make choices like fruit or vegetables and sacrifices for what was simply available.
But take it from a pro like Dugas, sometimes you can save a little here and splurge elsewhere, she said while holding up a small container of her favorite tiramisu gelato.
Her strategy is to buy more generic brand items and use coupons whenever deals are there. With all the decisions she makes, she keeps one thing consistent: "to try to cook healthy meals but inexpensive. Try to get meals that last a long time and try to put stuff in the freezer. It is a challenge though but it can be done," she said.
Still, the TCFP wants to make it so that she doesn't have to "just deal."