As your mayor, my goal is to be a better leader each day.

That’s why I took on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamp, challenge.

For a week in September, I stuck to a budget of a typical SNAP participant, spending no more than $29 a week/$4.16 a day on groceries.

It wasn’t easy walking in the shoes of families who depend on food stamps and face other challenges while still trying to stretch their food benefit.

That’s about $97 a week for a family of four.

I scoured the aisles of grocery stores to stick to my budget. Starches and milk were the bargains while fruits and veggies were a splurge. It was hard to eat a balanced diet.

I cooked my own meals, skipped the drive-thru and didn’t eat out because food stamps aren’t taken at restaurants. I even lost 4 pounds.

I can’t imagine how working families on the go get by without having the convenience of ready-to-eat meals, especially kids who need the nutrition to learn in school.

From this experience, I gained a critical perspective as a policy maker by seeing the real struggles for families in Phoenix.

And, the struggles are real: the metro Phoenix area is ranked the 34th worst, in terms of hunger, out of the 100 largest metro areas.

Worse, women raising children alone here aren’t doing well. More than 45 percent of mothers raising children by themselves are in poverty, and 1.1 million Arizonans rely on SNAP to feed their families.

I started to think about other struggles people face, such as how people with health problems get by on potatoes, noodles, tortillas and white bread, the cheapest items when you are sticking to a budget.

Also, how are we making sure kids are well fed and ready to learn at school when food is hard to come by at home?

That is why turning this economy around is so important. While this experience was great to raise awareness about the SNAP program, there’s a lot of work to do to help struggling families here in the Valley.

We need to build a diverse, sustainable economy that can weather the ups and downs and breathe new life into our city.

We need to get our residents the quality education they need to prepare for new, innovative and high-wage jobs so they can put food on the table and feed their kids.

I’ve learned that the best “program” for any struggling family is a job that pays a living wage.

And that’s what I’m focusing on for every Phoenix family.

• Greg Stanton was elected mayor of Phoenix in 2011.

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