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Food stamps can provide good options

Barbara Randall's article in the Review two weeks ago was certainly intriguing. In a fast-paced world of convenience foods, scratch cooking and stretching food dollars is almost a novel concept.

As a food activist and mother of three boys (plus four extras until their dad returns from Afghanistan), the hoopla about the governor's shopping trip with his 'food stamp budget' set me free. It was enough that when The Oregonian ran two front page articles on how deprived he was going to be, I sent a note to Kulongoski's office about what he could have bought if he had some shopping education.

Disconcerting was that he made it look like the only choices for low-income families or food stamps users is low-quality food. It was irresponsible to perpetuate a stereotype that poor families can only afford to eat food from the bottom of the barrel. What his message should have been is that teaching food stamp users how to be money-savvy could solve Oregon's hunger. He should have backed that message by funding shopping and nutrition education as a requirement to receive food stamp benefits.

When a family that is used to receiving $500 a month in aid is no longer eligible for benefits, they aren't likely to have $500 in cash a month to continue purchasing as they did with food stamps, so the hunger cycle continues. Moreover, acceptable food purchases can include candy, soda and other 'junk' foods. Purchasing those foods with food stamp detracts from buying high-quality items or pantry staples instead.

The governor bought Top Ramen, PB and J, and a few other odds and ends - less than 30 items in all. Had he read the weekly store fliers, and pre-collected a few manufacturers' coupons, he could have bought cereal, meat, fresh produce and other staple items to last more than the week he worried about barely making it through. I forwarded him a list with 50 items, more variety, and fresher choices.

Having been poor and raised by a mother who was 'on the system', I get what hunger is. I never wanted my children to experience hunger so I became a savvy shopper. Last month, I fed nine people for $300, with no store-brand mac and cheese. My store savings for April was well over $1000.

In addition to working a full-time job, Hotcouponworld.com is a site I own and run with a partner in Wyoming, who herself, was a food stamp user when her husband crushed his hand in a work accident. We've taught thousands of people how to save money shopping. Our members even get great deals on organic foods as well as non-food items. Smart shopping and resource control saved my partner from losing her home.

On a recent shopping trip, $7.00 out of pocket yielded me six bottles of laundry detergent, a gallon of milk, a loaf of French bread, three packages of disposable razors, five high-end chocolate bars, and six boxes of kids fruit snacks. The trip took 30 minutes in all, saving $86. I average $10,000 a year in savings over retail at the store. For a food stamp budget of $420 a month, I would have $2,100 for five months. I've only spent $718 dollars on food and household items all year.

To learn more about how people all over the country are expanding their personal wealth and gaining financial freedom, check out our Web site. We're teaching people to rethink their spending. Many save to attend college to get better jobs and enhance their family's quality of life. In addition to funding a 401K and my savings fund, HotCouponWorld.com and I donate to local families. Helping people find freedom from hunger by has been one of my more rewarding life experiences.

Parrish is a West Linn resident and owner of Hotcouponworld.com.