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Chef Mario Batali Attempting to Live a Week on a Food Stamp Budget

To much of the world, it was Monday. To Mario Batali, it was Day Four.

The chef, his wife and their two teenage sons are eating for a week on the equivalent of a food stamp budget in protest of potential cuts pending in Congress to the benefit program used by more than 46 million Americans.

That’s $31 per person for the week, or about $1.48 per meal each.

Goodbye restaurants, free nibbles on his talk show The Chew and all the luxe offerings at Eataly, the high-end New York City market he co-owns. Hello, Trader Joe’s, Jack’s, Dollar Store, Gristedes, and Western Beef, a low-cost supermarket chain.

“I’m … starving,” said Mr. Batali, who’s on the board of the food relief agency Food Bank for New York City, which issued the challenge to celebrity pals like Mr. Batali and anybody else who wants to know what it’s like.

Mr. Batali said his first reaction when asked to join was a big “gulp,” then he realized while shopping for Friday’s start of the challenge that with a little forethought it wouldn’t be all that brutal.

One lesson: Forget organic and anything pesticide- or hormone-free. “The organic word slides out and saves you about 50 percent.”

So what’s on the Batali menu through Thursday? Lentil chili with onion, water and cumin was one dinner that came with a complaint from his wife when he bought two bags of lentils instead of one, until he convinced her the extra cost would mean cheap eats for the next day.

“Rice and beans is in my lunch every day,” Mr. Batali said. “We got a bag of mini gala apples for $3. We bought a pork shoulder roast for $8 and got 2½ meals out of it. I got a whole chicken for $5, but it was spoiled, so I had to return it and got a $7 chicken instead. They were out of $5 chickens.”

Convenience also has been sacrificed, like the afternoon his boys, 14 and 15, were running late and the family really wanted to grab hot dogs before a basketball game but couldn’t.

His children are doing well and didn’t have to be dragged into what Mr. Batali described as less of a publicity stunt and more of a conversation starter about what it means to be hungry in America today.

To read Leanne Italie’s entire story, go to Washington Times

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