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News & Press: Advocacy

Most fail $29 food challenge

Wednesday, November 18, 2015   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Brad Bender
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Most fail $29 food challenge


Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 8:36 pm


TRAVERSE CITY — Mayor Jim Carruthers usually makes a health-conscious choice to avoid the candy bowls and donuts available at meetings, but his attitude changed once he accepted a challenge to live on $29 worth of food for a week.

"They are much more attractive to me now," Carruthers said. "I'm hungry."
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a federal and state program more commonly known as food stamps. The SNAP Challenge was created by the Food Research and Action Center, a national nonprofit organization working to eradicate hunger and under-nutrition in the United States. The challenge involves eating for a week on $29 — the average amount of assistance the program provides to an adult.

Three instructors at Northwestern Michigan College used the challenge as part of an interdisciplinary study of homelessness, poverty and hunger awareness for about 100 students across five classes. The study culminated with a number of events and presentations that coincide with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week which takes place each year the week before Thanksgiving.
"It's to bring awareness about what people in poverty and food insecurity have to go through," said NMC instructor Lisa Blackford. "It's really, really a struggle to do it. I failed and I've been a social worker for 20 years."

Each student had to ask at least three people to try the challenge but some students said they asked twice that many and couldn't get anyone to participate.
"People didn't believe it, that anyone would have to live on $29 a week," said student Maggie Devell.

Carruthers didn't last past the first day. He accepted a free cup of coffee from his favorite coffee shop, a rule violation. By the end of the week, his first as mayor, he dined on free pizza at a city event, lunch bought by a friend, a finger foods at a cocktail party.
"That would be considered cheating," Blackford said. "You can't accept free things.

"A lot of people don't have the privilege of going out to lunch or people buying you dinner or a meeting where free food is served. For some of our families this is a struggle ... and they don't have the option to fail."

Carruthers said despite his failing grade the exercise increased his awareness about hunger in the community, the cost of food, and how much people take good, quality food for granted.

He spent his $29 on eggs, rice, pasta, beans, raw carrots, spinach and some broccoli slaw. He felt good about the variety and healthy choices he had made. But when he got home, he said he realized he takes some things for granted, such as olive oil, spices and sauces that weren't available to him.
It was bland," he said. "And I spent time hungry. No late-night snacks before bed."
Carruthers didn't fail alone.

Blackford said she didn't realize how much she takes grocery shopping for granted when she discovered her fresh fruit, vegetables, and meats were out of her price range. She bought food she could stretch over several meals which meant a lot of pasta, beans, rice, eggs and high-sodium canned foods.

"I felt sluggish, lethargic, extremely frustrated and forgetful," she said. "I felt like I was in a fog all of the time."

Students Rachel Light, Breana Demaray and Devell did their research project on aging out of the foster care system at age 18. But all three also tried and failed the SNAP Challenge and didn't know anyone who succeeded.

"As students we are already almost taking the challenge without the SNAP assistance," Demaray said.

But all three students said they still saw a big drop in their nutrition levels, especially the amount of protein in their diet, during the challenge.


"The nutrition is really a big deal," Demaray said. "It's difficult to concentrate in class and I found myself falling asleep. I can't imagine doing this if you have kids."


Karen Green says...
Posted Friday, December 11, 2015
Interesting article but $29 per week is more than lots of my senior clients receive, they have been reduced to $16 per month in Detroit. This not to say that $29 is a lot because it isn't and would be a struggle for me to try and purchase items I'm used to getting as well.

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