The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) makes a difference in the lives of millions of Americans across the country, but in many cases, the benefits received are too low to allow families to purchase enough nutritious food and to feed their families healthy meals on a consistent basis. After paying for housing, energy and health care expenses, many low-income households have little or no money remaining to spend on food without food stamp benefits. In addition, most food stamp households report that their benefits do not last the entire month. Many are forced to turn to food pantries and soup kitchens.
Click on the dots below to see who’s taken SNAP/Food Stamp Challenges. The green dots indicate elected officials and the red dots indicate community members. Don’t see someone who has taken the challenge? E-mail Betsy Edwards (email@example.com) and she will include you on the map. Zoom in the map to see the District of Columbia. Click here to see a list of national Challenge takers.
The SNAP Challenge gives participants a view of what life can be like for millions of low-income Americans. 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.
FRAC has supported and fostered SNAP Challenges to help educate the public and opinion leaders about what it means to live on a limited budget. With help from The Hatcher Group, FRAC developed a toolkit for Members of Congress (pdf). FRAC also has created materials to help organizations mount Challenges of their own.
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.