Harvest Desk
10:11 am
Mon September 30, 2013

Taking The SNAP Challenge Is Not Easy

Monica Eng prepared rice and beans with kale salad for dinner on the SNAP challenge.
Monica Eng prepared rice and beans with kale salad for dinner on the SNAP challenge.
Credit Monica Eng/WBEZ

How well would you do living off $4.80 a day for food? 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is often the way some families get food. The SNAP Challenge is designed to illustrate what it's like to live off the allotment given to those who receive what are commonly called food stamps. 

Monica Eng of WBEZ in Chicago was among the reporters who chose to try it.  Eng had done it before, when she was working for the Chicago Tribune.   Using a slightly larger allowance and following the limits for two days, Eng kept a diary of what she cooked and ate. 

Eng found she could make some nutritious meals, but that the offerings became monotonous.  "If I had to feed the same rice and beans to my kids four nights in a row, I would get a lot of complaints," Eng said.

Monica Eng
Monica Eng
Credit WBEZ

Beans are a more economical way to get protein in the diet on the SNAP challenge than buying meat.  While fresh vegetables are a nice addition to the plate, Eng found not everyone has access.  "You really do need a car to get to the store where there are the best deals. A lot of times, stores in the neighborhoods where a lot of low income people live, they don't stock a lot of great, fresh produce that really what made my dollar go farther," she said.

The SNAP challenge also shows what it's like to do without.  Eng says the first thing she purchased after ending the challenge was a cup of coffee from her local cafe.   

Try the SNAP challenge for yourself.

Related Program