CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee(WDEF) - Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke and his staff are pledging to live off of $4.80 per day for food in an effort to highlight the struggle many people face now that food stamp benefits have been slashed by 5-percent.
Berke recently ate lunch with children who come from homes where three square meals a day isn't always guaranteed. His goal was to bring attention to the problems of living on a food stamp program in which benefits were recently reduced to about $30.80 a week per person.
"And so what I want to do this week is buy living off of $4.40 a day to highlight the struggles so many people face," Berke said.
But there's a bigger picture to explore. Nearly 23-percent of the state population struggles to put food on the table. In Hamilton county alone more than 50,000 people are considered food insecure.
"That means that they don't have enough to eat to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle and of that 15,000 are children this is unacceptable," said Food Bank president Maeghan Jones.
The Chattanooga Food Bank works with more than 300 partners in 20 counties and the demand for their services is increasing.
"We're all anticipating an increase in demand for food assistance as the SNAP benefits have decreased," Jones said.
Adding to that demand are many parents who were once financially stable but are now struggling to feed their children.
"Many of these people are coming for help for the first time and it takes a lot of courage to do that. It's difficult to walk in and ask for help when you've never had to do that in your life," Jones said.
And now we've reached the time of year when there's so much focus on holiday meals.
"It's more poignant around the holidays because it's hard to think of going through the holidays without a family meal and a festive meal that brings us all together but it is something that our families are dealing with day in and day out all through the year," Jones said.