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Can You Live On $5 A Day? Take The SNAP Challenge Next Week And Find Out

By Anthony Todd in Food on Sep 13, 2013 4:40PM


Chicago is one of the most food-insecure cities in the nation, and SNAP (aka food stamps) and other assistant programs are in danger of being cut. The Greater Chicago Food Depository is asking you to help out by participating in the SNAP challenge and finding out if you can live on a tight, tight food budget.

September is Hunger Action Month, and the SNAP Challenge officially kicks off on Monday. The rules?

1) Each person should spend a set amount for food and beverages during the Challenge week. That amount is $35/week or $5/day for all food and beverage.
2) All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including fast food and dining out, must be included in the total spending.
3) During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchase for the project. Do not eat food that you already own - this does not include spices and condiments.
4) Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or at work, including at receptions, briefings, or other events where food is served.
5) Keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of your experiences throughout the week.
6) Invite others to join you, including co-workers, reporters, chefs, or other elected officials.
7) Share your SNAP Challenge story. Post updates on Facebook and Twitter and tag them with #SNAPchallenge.

We've heard all the objections—faking poverty is offensive; it does no good for non-poor people to live on such a tight budget; it's just a vanity project for rich folks—and we reject them. Learning what life is like for other people is always important, especially if your votes and donations help control how those people are able to live.

Even if you can't do the entire challenge, you can still participate. Try it for just a day to get the feel for how little you have to spend. Many of us spend more than $5/day on tea and coffee, so even a single day of observing can be enlightening. If you want to watch others participate, either for ideas or inspiration, check out WBEZ. Two of their reporters are following the challenge for a few days.

Here's another idea: use the SNAP Challenge to figure out a donation. Keep track of what you normally spend during the day or week after you complete a SNAP Challenge. Then, donate the difference to the food depository. Or, really, just donate anything to the food depository.