I will be taking the SNAP Challenge from October 1st through the 7th this year to raise awareness about hunger and food insecurity in the community. The SNAP Challenge gives participants a view of what life can be like for thousands of low-income citizens. Most participants take the Challenge for one week, living on the average daily food stamp benefit (about $4 per person/per day). Challenge participants find they have to make difficult food shopping choices, and often realize how difficult it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy.
The Challenge first captured public attention in 2006 when FRAC allies in Philadelphia, Pa. hosted one, followed by groups in Wichita, Kansas. The Challenge took the national stage in 2007 when four Members of Congress – Representatives James McGovern (D-Mass.), Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) – pledged to live for week on an average food stamp budget and blogged about their experiences.
Since then, hundreds – if not thousands – of people have taken the challenge, including Members of Congress, governors, state legislators, mayors, advocates for elderly persons and children, religious and community leaders, reporters, and average citizens have taken the Challenge. They have educated themselves and their communities about SNAP/Food Stamps, bolstered the public’s understanding of the Program, and often created new anti-hunger advocates.
While living on a food stamp budget for just a week cannot come close to the struggles encountered by low-income families week after week and month after month, it does provide those who take the Challenge with a new perspective and greater understanding. I will be post more about my SNAP Challenge in the coming days and offer an open invitation to anyone: concerned citizens, business people, civic leaders, charitable organizations and even fellow candidates vying for seats on the November ballot to join me in this awareness experiment. On average, Maine residents who qualify for SNAP are extended a benefit of $116/month per person which roughly calculates to about $4/day per person. Incidentally, the average benefit per household (more than one recipient/qualifier) is $218/month.
Seven days + a maximum daily allowance of $4 + Experience the plight of being hungry or food insecure.
Understanding the issue brings us closer to the gravity of what this does to those who fight this battle daily. Only then can we leverage the power of community, creativity and innovation to address the indignity of the struggle. I hope you will consider learning more about the SNAP Challenge and join me in this task.