Take the Food Bank of South Jersey SNAP Challenge
Could you eat with $133 to buy groceries each month?
Date: August 27 - September 16, 2012
Can you live on less than $5 worth of food each day? Working poor families, people with disabilities, and seniors on fixed incomes do it all the time. Every month, more than 800,000 New Jerseyans seek help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the new name for the federal Food Stamp Program, to meet a portion of their food needs.
SNAP benefits are only meant to supplement a struggling family's budget and simply can't cover food costs for an entire month. But after rent, utilities, transportation and childcare, most low-income households have little or no money left for food without SNAP benefits. Many of these families turn to the Food Bank of South Jersey’s partner agencies—like food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters—to help keep food on the table.
Could you buy enough food with SNAP benefits, like so many of our neighbors? We are challenging you to fill your grocery cart the same way that more than half a million New Jerseyans do. Below are profiles of real SNAP participants with names and identifying information changed to preserve their privacy. You can choose a profile and live on that person’s food budget. Try to take into consideration their environment and responsibilities. If you’d prefer, you can opt to live on the average daily benefit. The average monthly SNAP benefit per person in New Jersey is $133.26. That is only $4.75 a day.
Our hope is that this challenge provides an insight into the difficulties faced by New Jerseyans who struggle to avoid hunger, stay healthy, and find affordable nutritious food.
Starting August 27, take the SNAP Challenge and see how you fare. FBSJ employees are taking the challenge for 3 weeks. Here’s what you need to know about the SNAP Challenge:
- Each person may spend $4.75 per day, a typical daily allotment.
- You may not consume food and beverages that you had in your refrigerator or pantry (or garden) before your SNAP challenge begins.
- Your daily allowance is for any food and beverage you consume. That soda from the vending machine counts. Dinner at a restaurant counts. Fast food counts.
- Try to buy your food only at locations that accept EBT cards (electronic benefit transfer).
- Keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of your experiences throughout the week.
- You may visit local community soup kitchens or food pantries, but if you do, please make a financial contribution in an amount that at least covers the cost of the meal or food you receive so they can continue to serve people who are really in need. Your financial contribution to that program will not be subtracted from your SNAP allocation.
We want to hear about your experiences during this challenge!
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- Take the challenge for 3 weeks along with Food Bank of South Jersey staff members.
- Get a small sense what applicants for SNAP benefits experience by screening yourself.
- Keep track of what you eat and what you spend during the challenge. Here is a form that will help you.
- Using social media and in regular conversations, tell people that you’re taking the SNAP Challenge and why it’s important.
John is in his mid-30s and lives in South Jersey. He is married with 5 children under the age of 18. John has some college education. Right now, he receives unemployment benefits of about $1,000 and expects to start working again in a matter of weeks. The mortgage for his home costs more than half his monthly income of $2,000. John receives $652 per month in SNAP benefits. ($163/wk for family of 7, or $3.33/day per person)
Lucy is a 30 year old single mother of a 12 month old baby. She has some college education, works full-time, has no health insurance, and makes $800 every two weeks. Lucy lives in low-income housing where she pays $200 rent. Her SNAP benefits amount to $16 per month. ($4/wk for family of 2, or $0.28/day per person)
Ryan is approaching 40 and lives alone. After earning his GED and working, he was injured and is unable to work. Ryan receives disability benefits, has an income less than $1,000 monthly, and pays $400 in rent. He receives $122 per month in SNAP benefits. ($4.36/day)
Julie is 26 years old and pregnant. She went to tech school and does not currently have a job. Julie lives with her boyfriend who is 28 years old and waiting to receive unemployment. The couple pays almost $900 a month in rent and utilities. Julie’s monthly SNAP benefit is $367. ($91.75/wk for family of 3, or $4.37/day per person)
Elizabeth is a widow in her 70s. She pays $200 in utilities bills each month. Taxes on her home amount to $1,350. Elizabeth receives income from Social Security and a pension, totaling $1,158 a month. Her monthly SNAP benefit is $10. ($0.36/day)