Can you feed yourself on $4 a day?

Rhonda invites you to try. The Des Moines resident is very grateful that after three years of living in a tent near the city’s rivers and in abandoned lots, she’s now living in a modest apartment along a public bus route. She’s grateful to students in Des Moines University’s Homeless Community Outreach (HCO) who befriended her while she was homeless and who still visit or text her every Sunday. She’s also grateful the paperwork snafus were resolved that for almost two months had tied up her benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the largest nutrition assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“That’s been a nightmare for me,” she says. “When I got my [SNAP] card in the mail, I sat by the river and cried.”

Still, Rhonda knows that living on approximately $4 per day for food is no picnic. “This week I paid $2.40 for a dozen eggs,” she says. “Meat and milk prices are going up, too.”

To get a glimpse of what life is like for the more than 45 million low-income people – about one in seven Americans, many of them children – who participate in SNAP, members of DMU’s HCO, the Muslim Students Association and Preventegrative Medicine Club invite you to try the SNAP Challenge by feeding yourself Nov. 17-20 on just $4 a day. That’s approximately the amount you as an adult individual in Iowa would receive via SNAP.

“The SNAP Challenge will definitely test your creativity and bargaining skills,” says Julie Risinger, a second-year osteopathic medical student and HCO president. “When talking with students about the challenge, they aren’t sure if they will be able to manage on such a small budget. However, it is this sense of food insecurity and awareness of the true constraints on SNAP that we hope to highlight. As future health care providers, it is important that we understand the difficulties our future patients may have when it comes to eating a balanced diet.”

The University’s SNAP Challenge is one of the events during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Nov. 14-22. You can sign up for the challenge online; during the noon hour on Monday, Nov. 16, in the Student Education Center; or at the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet that evening. During that event, participants will be randomly served a type of dinner – from a multi-course plated meal to white rice in a cup – proportionately based on worldwide poverty rates.

Also during the first three weeks of November, DMU students are sponsoring a campus food drive to generate donations to the Des Moines Area Religious Council Food Pantry Network.

If you want to try the SNAP Challenge, here are some guidelines:

  • Spend $4 or less on all food and beverages each day of the challenge, Nov. 17-20.
  • All food and beverages purchased and consumed during the challenge, including dining out, must be included in total spending.
  • If you eat food that you already have at home or that is given to you by family, friends, your workplace, etc., account for its value in your SNAP budget.
  • Invite others to join you in the challenge, including family, friends, co-workers, health care providers and elected officials.
  • Share your experiences and observations during the challenge via social media. Be sure to include #DMUSnapChallege in your posts!

Over the years, hundreds of members of Congress, governors, other elected officials, journalists and other community members have taken the SNAP Challenge and learned firsthand what it’s like making ends meet and satiating hunger on a SNAP budget. Are you up for the challenge?

Disclaimer: This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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