Can You Complete the Food Stamp Challenge?

We know that many of our readers – law students and attorneys – work with clients in poverty.  And while public interest lawyers are hardly raking in the bucks on payday, most of us don’t know what it’s like to try to make ends meet at or below the poverty line (although more and more families have relied on Food Stamps since the recession).  The Food Stamp Challenge is a small-but-signficant way to better understand your clients’ struggles.

Maryland Hunger Solutions is sponsoring the Food Stamp Challenge.  We’re a little late to the punch on this one: the official week-long Challenge period started yesterday and runs through 1/31.  But you can pretty much take the Challenge on your own time.  MHS’s Challenge is straightforward: could you live on a food budget of no more than $4.30 per day for a week?  ($4.30 is the average, daily food stamp benefit for an individual in Maryland.  You could find out the benefit in your area via the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service website.  Those who are not intimately familiar with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a/k/a “Food Stamps”, might be surprised to learn that it’s administered by the USDA, not by Health and Human Services, as is commonly thought.  There’s a ton of data online about the food stamp program generally and the signficant rise in food stamp usage as more and more American families slipped into poverty during the recession.  If you wish to learn more you can start with the USDA’s data.  And note that according to the New York Times, in 2009 Food Stamps were feeding 1 in 8 Americans and 1 in 4 children.)

Here are the MHS’s Challenge Guidelines, which were shared with us by the good folks at AARP Maryland, who are participating this week:

What are the guidelines for the Challenge?

  1. Each person should spend a set amount for food and beverages during the Challenge week. That amount is $30 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 or briefings.
  5. Please 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.

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