Could you feed yourself three square meals a day with only $4.56?
That’s the average amount 500,000 Coloradans are receiving from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Thousands of our neighbors subsist on such a budget for themselves and their families through their SNAP benefits. The federal nutrition program, previously known as food stamps, provides households with the financial resources to purchase groceries—literally putting food on tables for millions of American children, adults and seniors.
Many families survive entirely on the food acquired through their SNAP benefits, which affords $31.92 per week to the average recipient in Colorado. What if that’s all you had to spend on groceries?
This challenge is open to all individuals and involves living on what would be the weekly SNAP (food stamps) allowance in Colorado for an entire week, so you can get a sense of what it would be like to subsist on SNAP. This means spending only $4.56 per day, per person, on everything that you eat, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, seasonings and drinks.
How the challenge works:
- It will last for seven straight days.
- Spend no more than $4.56 per day, including beverages.
- Only buy and eat/drink items that are allowed to be purchased with SNAP.
- Don’t use food already on hand unless you deduct the value from your daily amount. Salt and pepper do not count against the daily cost allowance, but all other seasoning, cooking oils, condiments, snacks and drinks do.
- Try to include fresh produce and a healthy protein each day.
- Don’t accept food from family, friends, co-workers and others. Avoid free food anywhere.
- No outside food or dining out is permitted since you cannot use SNAP benefits on hot meals.
- You many need to cut coupons or search grocery paper ads on days that items are discounted.
- Keep a log of what was bought and eaten for each meal, as well as grocery receipts.
- Keep a daily journal of the experience. Did you feel deprived or restricted? Did you eat differently than usual? Were you hungry?
What you can purchase with SNAP benefits:
- Produce and canned goods
- Meat and dairy products
- Dried goods, beans and rice
- Breads and cereals
- Baby food and infant formula
- Soda, chips and candy
- Coffee and tea
- Seeds (whether for eating or planting)
What is not allowed through SNAP:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Hot food or any food that you eat in-store
- Medicine and vitamins
- Non-edible household items like paper towels, toilet paper and soap
SNAP Challenge participants are encouraged to keep a daily journal and share their experiences—during and after the challenge—with Hunger Free Colorado as well as their friends, family and others.
- Blog about it. Post your daily journal online or write posts for your own blog. Include photos of your purchased food and meals. Consider doing a guest blog for Hunger Free Colorado like Kelly and Jeremy did.
- Tweet using the hashtag #SNAPChallenge Share your thoughts, photos, links to your blog posts and facts about hunger in Colorado. Use our handle, @HungerFreeCo, for possible re-tweets and continued conversation about the SNAP Challenge.
- Use Facebook to share daily updates, photos and a end-of-week recap with your friends. Post on Hunger Free Colorado’s Facebook page to continue the conversation with other hunger-free champions as well as for possible sharing with their followers.
- Post photos on Instagram and Pinterest, sharing your purchased food and meals. Use the hashtag #SNAPChallenge.
- Use your voice—talk about your experience with others. Did you come away with greater awareness and understanding for the hunger challenges that affect so many in our state? Have discussions with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. Share your experience with members of your church, civic organizations and other clubs. Invite a representative from Hunger Free Colorado to provide insight into the issue and solutions surrounding hunger in Colorado.
After taking the challenge, we urge you to become more involved in the fight against hunger. Everyone must be a part of the solution if we want to end hunger in Colorado. There’s a place for you at the table. Learn more about what you can do today and in the future.
Many celebrities, politicians and neighbors—like you—have taken the SNAP Challenge to shed light on what it’s like to live on such a food budget and raise awareness of the barriers that exist for accessing high-quality, nutritious food through SNAP. Search the hashtag #SNAPChallenge on Twitter to see current participant comments and musings.
Read Kelly’s story and Jeremy’s experience with the SNAP Challenge, as well as watch Kristen’s vlog (video blog) with her reflections. They are just three local professionals who participated in the fall of 2012 and shared their experiences with us and others.