Rules and FAQs
- Spend just $4.72 a day or $33.04 a week (per person) for your entire food and drink budget. This is the average amount that California food stamp recipients have to spend on food. The $33.04 limit includes any food and drink consumed inside or outside of your home, as well as any staples or condiments you have on hand (salt, pepper and tap water are considered "free"). Note: this is $0.72 per day more than was allowed in the 2010 Hunger Challenge. This is a temporary increase — so if you want to really challenge yourself, try living on just $4 a day!
- Do not accept any free food from family, friends or at work (that means coffee, too!).
- If you have a garden, please price-out any produce you source from your garden based on supermarket or farmers market prices in your area and include that cost in your $33.04 total. (Most urban poor do not have access to land for gardening, nor do they have the time to cultivate a garden — many work two or more jobs.)
- If you forage for food, please consider whether the urban poor (with limited transportation and time) would have access to those food items in their neighborhood.
- Please share your experiences (if you can) and help create awareness about what it's like to eat on a tight budget.
- Post about the Hunger Challenge on Facebook.
- Tweet about the Challenge. Use the hashtag #hungerchallenge
- Post a Hunger Challenge badge on your blog and write about your experience: menu planning, shopping for food, your day-to-day eating and recipes you have found or created. What's difficult? What's easy? What do your family and friends think? Let us know your blog's url and we'll add it to our blogroll.
- Send your thoughts, videos and photos to HungerChallenge@sffb.org and we'll post them on the Hunger Challenge blog
Q: Do I have to do the Hunger Challenge on the exact dates?
A: No, feel free to be flexible on the timing. We do recommend that you try to do the Challenge for seven days, though. You'll notice that the feeling gets very different around day four or five.
Q: Why did the amount per day go up this year?
A: Food prices have increased dramatically, and food stamp benefits are pegged to the cost of the USDA Thrifty Food Plan. So when food prices rise, benefits also go up — though the benefits increase only once a year and lag behind actual food price increases. The food stamp program is also still receiving a boost from the economic stimulus package, which will expire at the end of October, 2013.
Q: Are there different limits for singles, couples and families?
A: Food stamp rules are a bit more complex in terms of the amount per person as the number of persons in the household increases and amounts also vary based on income. But for the purposes of the Hunger Challenge, we keep it simple at $4.72 per person per day. So, if there are two people in your home taking the Challenge you have a total of $9.44 per day for all your meals; if there are three people, you have a total of $14.16 per day, etc.
Q: If I only spend $2 per person one day, can I spend $7.44 the next day — or does it always have to be $4.72 per day?
A: You don't have to spend the same amount every day — it just needs to total out to $33.04 per person per week.
Q: Can I do my entire week's shopping all at once?
A: Yes, no problem! In fact, it would be nearly impossible if you didn't!
Q: Can I buy something and only allocate a portion of it (and a portion of the cost) to the Hunger Challenge — half of a whole chicken, for example? Or part of a family pack of pork chops?
A: We'll leave it up to you. In the past, some participants have done that and others have gone to the store with only the exact allotted amount in their pockets.
Q: Are the things already in my kitchen off limits during the challenge? Or can I only use them if included in the total $4.72 per day?
A: You can choose to use items in your kitchen if you cost them out. Some participants don't do this, because that might not be an option for someone on a limited income (they might not be able to afford the capital outlay of a $5 jar of spices, for example). Other participants have shopped at stores that sell numerous products in bulk from bins and purchased the amount they'd use for the Hunger Challenge week. Basically, it's up to you — but pre-Challenge leftovers or any items you have on hand should be factored into your costs.
Q: How do I calculate the cost of staples that I already had on hand?
A: If you want to use items on hand, Safeway.com is a good resource for calculating the prices.
Q: What if food is brought into my office (for example, someone puts out snacks or lunch is served at a meeting)? What about free coffee at my work place?
A: Sorry! A person on food stamps likely wouldn't have those opportunities (they'd more likely have a job emptying wastebaskets containing discarded food from office lunch meetings). If people see you eating a lunch you packed from home, it's a great opportunity to talk about the Hunger Challenge with them.
Q: What is the rule on free samples? Does that fall into the same category as free coffee at work, so I shouldn't accept it?
A: If free samples are available someplace that a person on food stamps would have access, we say "Go for it!" But if you're thinking of grazing someplace like Costco, where there's a membership fee to enter, that's probably not appropriate.
Q: What if someone offers to take me out for a meal? Can I go?
A: Not if you want to play fair. A person on food stamps probably wouldn't have that opportunity.
Q: What if I'm invited to someone's house for a meal?
A: If you want to stick strictly to the Challenge, take your own food — or suggest that you all plan the meal around a food stamp budget. It could be an interesting experience!
Q: What if one of my household members eats a meal out?
A: If one of your household members participating in the Challenge "goes rogue," you should eliminate that meal's worth of supplies from the usable options in your pantry and fridge.
Q: I'm not so sure it would be healthy for my kids to participate in the Hunger Challenge. What do you think?
A: It can be a great opportunity to teach children about how less fortunate people live. If you don't want to deprive them of nutrition, consider giving them a "Hunger Challenge portion" — and if they ask for more, give it to them, but also ask them to imagine what it would be like if they couldn't have all the food they wanted. Here's a great blog post from a mom who did this with her kids: OrganicToBe.org
Q: Is food I grow in my garden "free?"
A: If you have a garden, please price-out any produce you source from your garden based on supermarket or farmers market prices in your area and include that cost in your $33.04 total. Most urban poor do not have access to land for gardening, nor do they have the time to cultivate a garden — many work two or more jobs.
Q: What if I forage?
A: If you forage for food, please consider whether the urban poor (with limited transportation and time) would have access to those food items in their neighborhood.
Still have a question that's not answered here? Email us and we'll let you know what we think!