Join us for The SNAP Challenge Experience!
There are many misconceptions about SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and people who rely on it. This 5-day experience is not comparable to the everyday struggle many people face to secure an adequate healthy food supply, it does give us the opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes and gain a better understanding of their challenges. We’re doing it August 27 – September 2. Visit our Facebook page for updates.
What is SNAP?
A federal program, SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.
The 5 Day Challenge
Each person can spend up to $4.23 per day for food and beverages during the Challenge, the average benefit for a SNAP recipient or $21.15 per person for 5 Days. You do not have to spend the same amount every day. Just don’t spend more than $21.15 per person for the 5-day period. All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge must be included in the total spending.
During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchase for the project. If you eat food that you already have at home or that is given to you by friends, family or work, account for it in your SNAP budget. Add the spices and oils used for cooking since those also cost money.
If you have children in your household and they are participating in the Challenge, you don’t include their lunch meals in your budget. You can assume they would be receiving free & reduced lunch meals at school if you received this benefit. Do think about how you feed your children during the summer.
SNAP benefits can be combined with coupons and store discount cards, but if you don’t already get a newspaper you may wish to consider whether you could afford to buy one for the coupons while living on a SNAP budget.
Invite others to join you, including family, friends or co-workers.
You can’t buy:
Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, or tobacco.
Any nonfood items, such as: pet foods; soaps, paper products; and household supplies.
Vitamins and medicines.
Prepared foods at the point of purchase such as rotisserie chicken or pre-made sandwich.
What choices are you making about the types of food you purchase, its nutritional value or where you shop?
What are you eating?
What have you cut out of your routine to stay on budget?
Are you eating a healthy, balanced diet?
How has the Challenge affected your mood? Your concentration?
What have you learned about the decisions many low-income families make every week?
How do you feel overall about this experience?
Oatmeal + brown sugar
2 eggs + piece of value wheat bread toast
If you are a coffee lover, consider your coffee choices. You will need to purchase an inexpensive can of coffee for the week to brew yourself, and also ask yourself if you really need the sugar and cream?
Entrée options (choose 2):
Baked potato with chili baked potato & can of chili beans
Brown rice and beans – dried beans with non-instant rice, cheese from a block (not pre-shredded) with chopped onion & bell pepper
Sandwich value wheat bread with peanut butter & jelly
Sandwich value wheat bread with egg, mayo & mustard
Snacks: Baby carrots. bananas, salad of iceberg lettuce with olive oil dressing
How can I stretch my SNAP budget?
The USDA recommends that SNAP recipients buy raw ingredients whenever possible, to maximize their benefits. You can plan your meals however you choose: buying food for the week, shopping multiple times, buying in bulk where affordable, and buying produce frozen, canned, or fresh.
If I don’t have enough money for the week, can I get a food box?
Many SNAP participants stretch their budget through the assistance of food co-operatives, food pantries, and food banks, we request that SNAP Challenge participants do not. Our reason for this is simple: your need is temporary and is for the purposes of the SNAP Challenge, but for those individuals and families, these resources are a lifeline. Using a food box or other food donation during your SNAP Challenge makes it more difficult for a household truly in need to get assistance.
SNAP isn’t intended to cover my full food budget for the month. Can I spend additional money?
In many cases, competing priorities of utilities, rent, childcare, and medical expenses prevent families from spending out-of-pocket monies on additional food. For these SNAP recipients, $4.23 per person, per day, for food is the often the reality. SNAP benefits could only reasonably cover about 70% of the average person’s food costs each month.
SNAP (Food Stamp) Myths
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, the new name for food stamps), is one of the best lines of defense against hunger in the United States. The federally funded program helps working families, seniors and many others in need put food on their tables. But stereotypes about SNAP and who uses it persist.
Myth #1: People who get SNAP don’t work.
FACT: The overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients who can work do so. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Among SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, more than half work while receiving SNAP—and more than 80 percent work in the year prior to or the year after receiving SNAP. The rates are even higher for families with children—more than 60 percent work while receiving SNAP, and almost 90 percent work in the prior or subsequent year.”
What’s more, many SNAP participants aren’t physically able to work. About 20 percent of SNAP participants are elderly or have a disability, according to the USDA.
Myth #2: SNAP is a drain on taxpayers.
FACT: Every $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.73 in economic activity, according to Moody’s economist Mark Zandi. SNAP not only helps low-income people buy groceries, it frees up cash for other expenses, such as medical care, clothing, home repairs and childcare. That benefits local businesses and their employees, which boosts the economy as a whole.
Myth #3: SNAP is rife with fraud and abuse.
FACT: “SNAP has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. SNAP fraud has actually been cut by three-quarters over the past 15 years, and the program’s error rate is at an all-time low of less than 3 percent. The introduction of EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards has dramatically reduced consumer fraud. According to the USDA, the small amount of fraud that continues is usually on the part of retailers, not consumers.
Myth #4: SNAP benefits go to undocumented immigrants.
FACT: Undocumented immigrants have never been eligible for SNAP. Documented immigrants can only get food stamps if they’ve lived in the U.S. for at least five years (with exceptions for refugees, asylumees and children). In fact, immigrants are far less likely to apply for food stamps because they worry about jeopardizing their immigration status and because the application process is especially daunting for non-English speakers.
Important: SNAP is a nutrition program run by the USDA and is not considered a welfare program. Receiving SNAP benefits will not affect a documented immigrant’s immigration status or any effort to gain U.S. citizenship.