Students on campus are raising awareness for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the food stamp program. In doing this, the university has been invited to partake in a food stamp challenge.
“The food stamp challenge is for one week where you only eat meals that add up to one dollar,” Rebecca Dial, junior political science and finance major from South Carolina, said. “So, it’s one dollar per meal, or three dollars a day. You also try to eat as healthy as possible, things like fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.”
Living off just $21 of food per week, students and faculty have the opportunity to simulate what eating is like on the nationwide average food stamp benefit. SNAP is a nutrition assistance program whose goal is to alleviate hunger and malnutrition for households needing assistance.
“Food stamps are help from the government to families, but it’s minimal. They aren’t living big,” Elizabeth Medlicott, junior biology pre-med major from Denton, said. “There will always be people that take advantage of the system, but it’s in place for a reason. It’s here for the families that are in need of assistance.”
Dial said she felt inspired to make this challenge a reality after being involved in the Pope Fellows seminar in Dallas and working with a food bank.
“It really impacted me, and I felt that this is something that especially ACU could benefit from, since most of us are better off and have never experienced this,” she said. “I just wanted to really change people’s mindsets about how people on these benefits live.”
Those wishing to take the challenge are required to “do the math” when preparing meals. This entails dividing the price of the food by its serving.
“With a lot of these meals, it is possible to eat cheap and reasonable,” Medlicott said. “I can have a chicken breast and green beans, which is a very healthy meal, for a dollar. But, you have to plan it out. It takes time.”
Dial and Medlicott both agreed that students can still participate even while eating in the Bean with the aid of a mobile learning device. A free iPhone and iTouch application can be downloaded that searches for the cheapest price of food items around town. Challengers may then determine their portion price.
They also suggest taking on the challenge with a buddy system.
“Have an accountability partner,” Medlicott said. “It’s hard to do and would be easy to forget or cheat.”
Students who take on the food stamp challenge will benefit by gaining perspective, Dial said.
“The main incentive for participants would have to be intrinsically motivated,” she said. “It helps you better understand what people are going through. It may not be the exact representation, but I think it allows you to connect better with those people you meet in life. You’ll be able to better minister to them and be able to have a relationship with them.”
Dial said that there is no set time for the food stamp challenge. Those wanting to participate are encouraged to begin at a time convenient for them. However, with Thanksgiving approaching, she believes its purpose can serve as an opportunity to be thankful.
“It helps us realize how blessed we are. Food is something we take for granted a lot,” Medlicott said. “Yes, I’ve been on budgets sometimes where I can’t get all the groceries I want, but I’ve always had a meal. I’ve never had to go without food. We’re just all very blessed, and this challenge a great way to be awakened.”
For more information, visit the challenge’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=258025877582548