February 25, 2014
“Here’s what my $29.96 bought me,” Rep. John Lesch (DFL-Saint Paul) says into the camera. He then turns the camera to his kitchen floor, where he has laid three meals a day for the entire week. Lesch is one of the Minnesota lawmakers participating in our Minimum Wage Challenge, which limits his weekly food budget at roughly $35.
In the homemade video posted on YouTube, Lesch runs over this meal plan: for breakfast, two eggs and one cup of fruit loops; a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Ramen noodles for lunch; and depending on the day, repeating that same lunch for dinner. For a few dinners, he includes a Tostino’s Personal Party Pizza.
“Now keep in mind, this is for one person,” he says. “If you have to raise a family, if you have a child, two children on minimum wage, I have no idea how you are going to pull this off.”
We know that many low-wage workers in Minnesota and across the country do have to care for children. Out of more than 356,000 low-wage workers in the state, about 63,000 have at least one child.
As he goes over his meal plan, Lesch points out that he has tried to vary his meals day to day--a few tuna sandwiches mixed in with the PB&J, no mayo--but that it’s a pretty repetitive diet. There’s also no fruits or vegetables, save for a few cans of green beans and corn.
“I don’t know how sick of this I’ll get,” Lesch concludes, “or how fat I will get, eating all the MSGs and whatever else is in the Ramen...and all the fat in the pizza.”
The lack of nutrition available on a minimum wage budget struck Moorhead City Councilwoman Heidi Durand as well. “I can’t tolerate another can of condensed soup...I haven’t had fresh fruit or veggies since Wednesday,” she reported, “I know one thing: our minimum wage is not healthy!”
We’ve heard since we were children about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. The calcium, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, and other nutrients in fruits and vegetables are especially important for a child’s development, but also for adults to protect against osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, digestive problems, and even mental conditions like Alzheimer’s and depression.
Durand said she felt the emotional pressure even after just a few days. “[Living on minimum wage] is not emotionally healthy either. There were several moments where I felt completely dependent and helpless and the only thing that got me through was knowing it was temporary.”
The Minnesota legislative session will begin today, February 25. Tell the Minnesota Senate to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2015.