Want to Learn More About a Food Stamp Challenge?

Posted 07/03/2014

Many of us donate canned goods to food banks, volunteer to pack food boxes or serve a hot meal to those in need during the holiday season. But what is it really like not to know where you next meal is coming from, or how you will afford enough food to last through the month? Participate in the Food Stamp Challenge and find out.

What is the Food Stamp Challenge?

The Food Stamp Challenge was created by the Food Research and Action Center in Washington, D.C., and is an attempt to live one week on the average food stamp benefit-approximately $4.37 per day or $1.46 per meal. The Food Stamp Challenge gives participants a view of what life can be like for millions of low-income Americans. Most participants take the Challenge for one week, living on about $4.37 per day worth of food—the average food stamp benefit. Challenge participants are forced to make difficult food shopping choices, and often realize how difficult it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy. The cost of a container of coffee and fresh fruits and vegetables will never be look at the same way.

Why take the Food Stamp Challenge?

Living on a food stamp budget for just a week does not fully illustrate the struggles encountered by low-income families week after week and month after month, it does provide those who take the Challenge with a new perspective and greater understanding. This is an opportunity to experience firsthand the impact of poverty on your food intake and to educate the people around you on the challenges of avoiding hunger, staying healthy and finding affordable nutritious foods with such a modest benefit.

Why just $1.46 per meal – that’s really low!

This amount is the average benefit food stamp recipients receive. Many working poor families, people with disabilities and seniors on fixed incomes are living on this budget amount everyday. After paying for housing, energy and healthcare expenses, many low-income households have little or no money remaining to spend on food without food stamp benefits. In addition, most food stamp households report that their food stamp benefits do not last the entire month, and many are forced to turn to food pantries and soup kitchens.

The Challenge:

Step 1 Commit to take the challenge by sending an email stating your intent to participate in the Food Stamp Challenge to Fran Rajotte at Catholic Charities of TN, Inc.: the local representative with the Campaign to Reduce Poverty Those who participate will be given recipe tips and can share their experiences with each other via email.

Step 2 Encourage your friends, coworkers, and pastor to take part in the Food Stamp Challenge.

Step 3 Action. Take one week and buy your groceries using the average Food Stamp benefit of $4.00 per person per day by following the budget table below. Use only these groceries as your food source for the week.


As of November 2013

Household Size 48 States and DC

I person = $133.35

2 persons = $266.70

3 persons = $400.05

4 persons = $533.40

5 persons = $666.75

6 persons = $800.10

7 persons = $933.45

8persons = $1,066.80

Each additional person $133.35

Participation Guidelines

  1. Each person should only spend a total of $33.34 on food and beverages during the week.
  2. All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including fast food and dining out, must be included in the total spending.
  3. During the Challenge, only eat food you purchase for the project. Do not eat food that you already own (this does not include spices and condiments).
  4. Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or at work, including at receptions or briefings.
  5. Please keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of your experiences throughout the week.

Step 4 Reflect. Keep a journal of your experience. Were there sacrifices you were forced to make? Were you able to maintain a healthy diet? Did you run out of food part way through the week? Share your experiences by emailing your journal to:

Step 5 Share. Talk with your friends, family and neighbors about your experience. Speak with your pastor and ask if you can share your story at Mass or in a parish group on Sunday or in the parish newsletter.

Step 6 Learn about and endorse Catholic Charities USA’s Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America and invite friends, family and fellow parishioners to endorse too! Encourage community groups and organizations that you are a part of to endorse the campaign as well.

Making a difference since 1962. CATHOLIC CHARITIES

2806 McGavock Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
Office: (615) 352-3087
Fax: (615) 352-8591

© 2020 Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Inc.