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Mario Batali spends week on food stamp budget

An undated file photo of celebrity chef and

An undated file photo of celebrity chef and restaurateur Mario Batali. Credit: Handout

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Mario Batali and hundreds of New Yorkers are restricting their food budget this week to $31 -- the average weekly food stamp allotment for a household.

Batali, the Food Bank for New York City and other supporters are scaling down their food budget to bring awareness to the fact 1.8 million city residents receive food stamps and that Congress is proposing major cuts to the program.

Last week, House Republicans passed legislation that would slash domestic spending, including food stamps and other social programs, to avoid scheduled reductions to the defense budget. The legislation is expected to fail in the Senate.

"For one week, walk in someone else's shoes. Knowledge is power, and by trying to understand what our friends and neighbors are going through, we will be better equipped to find solutions," Batali, a Food Bank board member, said in a statement.

Margarette Purvis, president and chief executive of the Food Bank, said life is already hard enough for the millions of New Yorkers who live in poverty. According to the Food Bank, 1 in 4 children in New York live in poverty, as do 1 in 5 women. More than 75 percent of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients are mothers and children.

Since Batali made his announcement, hundreds of people have agreed to take the challenge, which began on Friday, Purvis said.

Purvis, who is participating, said Food Bank-employed nutritionists helped come up with $31 weekly diets for the staff members who took the challenge.

"It's a lot of beans. The budget cannot cover ground turkey, so it's ground beef.," Purvis said.

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Purvis added that Batali's wife, Susan, who also is taking part in the challenge, found herself frantically clipping coupons. It is that kind of understanding of the poverty and food insecurity issue that the participants are trying to foster.

"What's a seven-day challenge for us is a daily reality for millions of Americans," Purvis said. "Food is one of the first sacrifices people have to make, and they should never have to make that sacrifice. The recession is not an excuse."

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