By Brianna Stacks
Professor Sarah Spiker Rainey is presenting a challenging project to her students: to live off of $29 worth of groceries in a single week.
The $29 Food Stamp Challenge has been adopted by Professor Rainey to raise awareness of food security issues in our country and to show her students how many American families live in today’s economy.
For this class project, they will be stepping into the shoes of people who have to deal with the difficulties involved with food stamps. A student of Rainey’s, Cody Bassett, commented speaking of how he himself has been on food stamps, “Being someone who grew up with low income, on food stamps, I think a lot of this I have seen, but I see it opening the eyes of people who think people on food stamps who are lazy and on drugs and not doing the things in life to make them successful.”
The objective is to give the students compassion and empathy to understand what it is like to fall prey to the misconceptions of those who abuse the privilege of having food stamps and what they must endure to feed their families.
For a part of her life, Rainey experienced the challenges that her students will now face for a grade. “I lived part of my life on food stamps,” Rainey commented, “I was on free/reduced lunches and we went to food banks to sometimes get food.”
To test this project, Rainey took on the challenge herself where she ended up only spending $20 that lasted her the entire week. In the end, she even allowed to treat herself with peach cobbler. Seeing the success in her own experience Rainey took this as a challenge that her students could accomplish as well.
Paying out of her own pocket, Rainey provides each student with $29, where they then planned their grocery lists of inexpensive food items in groups.
The students were required to provide receipts to keep track of how much they spent and if they went a penny over their $29, they failed their project all together. Students were allowed to use any coupons they acquired and were allowed to shop in the discount and clearance aisles to save money.
Interesting enough, Rainey instructed her students of how spices can be expensive and even gave the advice to go to McDonald’s for free condiments and spices, such as salt, pepper, and ketchup. Students were warned that while they were indeed encouraged to be thrifty, they were also highly required to be nutritionally minded.
Their nutrient intake goal was to be a minimum of 75 percent while being on a 2,000 calorie diet to obtain enough nutrients to keep their energy up.
Student, Stormi Waddell, expressed her opinion on the healthy requirements, “It is difficult. It is hard to eat healthy when you don’t have that much money to buy the healthy stuff. It is really easier to buy the processed food even though they are terrible for us.”
It is not just the $29 Food Stamp Challenge that Rainey’s classes are participating in, they will also be taking part in a food drive. Their goal is to raise 900 pounds of peanut butter and beans along with hygiene supplies to donate to Titus County Cares. In most cases, many people who are not qualified for food stamps must rely on food banks for their needs. Rainey and her students are taking in the essential proteins such as peanut butter and beans as well as hygiene products such as shampoo, deodorant, diapers, toothpaste, and feminine products.
The $29 Food Stamp Challenge will be a valuable experience to Rainey’s students. They will learn what it is like to be in the shoes of those who fall on hard times as well as learn how to survive them. The food drive will benefit the community with its donations, which will go towards helping families in need.