Yesterday, we introduced St. Louis MetroMarket, the mobile grocery store aimed at supplying impoverished neighborhoods with access to healthy and affordable foods.
In an attempt to experience the full depth of food insecurity for millions of Americans, co-founders Jeremy Goss and Colin Dowling have decided to dramatically reduce their grocery budgets in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) challenge.
Based on previous SNAP challenge models, Goss and Dowling will only spend $120 on food and beverages (the average SNAP benefit per recipient) for a total of 30 days. They will only be able to eat food they purchased for this challenge (excluding condiments). And they must walk, bike, or take the bus to the grocery store.
“We’ve been studying this issue from an eagle-eye view,” says Goss. “There was this element that was missing from our experience. We realized that we are going to be making introductions into these communities; it would be helpful if we understood, in ways that we haven’t yet.”
Goss and Dowling began their SNAP challenge on Monday, March 23. For Goss, the distress set in during his second day. “What I’ve experienced in the last day or so is the reminder that being hungry hurts," he said. "There is a physical pain that you have from having an emptiness in your stomach. I think that feeling will linger for some time.”
Goss and Dowling have invited others to participate in a seven-day SNAP challenge during their last week, from April 20 to 26. For those who would like to participate, here are some guidelines:
- Each person can only spend $30 per week on food and beverages.
- You may only eat food purchased for the project.
- Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or colleagues.
- Keep track of food receipts, and document your experiences.
- Share your observations by using the hashtags #SNAPchallenge and #4dollarsaday.
In the same vein as the ALS ice-bucket challenge, Goss and his partners plan to nominate other St. Louis leaders to take on the SNAP challenge, including Saint Louis University president Fred Pestello, Washington University chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, University of Missouri–St. Louis chancellor Thomas F. George, Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, U.S. House members, Gov. Jay Nixon, St. Louis mayor Francis Slay, and Kansas City mayor Sly James.
While the SNAP challenge offers an option for people to understand the hardships of eating on a limited budget, the reality is that food insecurity is not a choice for many people. “It sounds more noble than it actually is because we can stop at anytime” says Goss. “We are set up to do this for 30 days, but people are living this experience for many years of their lives.”