Dos and Donts of the Challenge/Guidelines

The Do’s and Don’ts of the SNAP Challenge

DON’T assume the SNAP Challenge will show you exactly what it’s like to be low income.
Subsisting on $4 per day is just one aspect of poverty. Your fast has an end date, while SNAP recipients continuously live with the uncertainty of where the next meal is coming from. Recognize the privileges that mitigate your discomfort during the SNAP Challenge (employment, transportation, free time, etc.).

DO remember to include advocacy.
Tell your legislators to support SNAP funding. Write letters to the editor and social media posts about the importance of the food safety net. Share links about hunger facts. Educate your social circles about what you have learned. 

DON'T go into the SNAP Challenge expecting to prove food-insecure people wrong. 
They are experts on their own experience. There is nothing the SNAP Challenge will teach you that a hungry person has not already tried to tell the world. You are participating in the SNAP Challenge not to verify their claims, but to walk with them in empathy, if only for a short time. 

DO share your experience.
You may notice things about yourself and the world that you’d taken for granted before. You may confront your own assumptions about hunger and poverty. Pay attention to how hunger affects your emotions and thoughts; imagine living with those effects for months, or years. What changes have you made to your daily schedule? Share these realizations and encourage others to challenge their assumptions, too. 

DON’T treat it like a game or an adventure.
Nobody wins the SNAP Challenge. Making it to the end of the week is not a victory. Treat it as an exercise in compassion. Treat it as a reminder to pay more attention to the struggles of people living in food-insecurity, and advocate for them. Cultivate admiration for their resourcefulness and strength in extraordinary circumstances.

DO your research.
Read articles by people who rely on food banks and SNAP. Understand challenges around access to healthy food, food deserts and the many layers involved in food insecurity. 

DO consider donating the money you saved.
Take all the money you didn’t spend on food during your SNAP Challenge week, and consider donating it

DO continue your advocacy when the SNAP Challenge is over.
When the week is over, you may be able to go back to your regular eating habits, but people all over America must still rely on SNAP. Keep advocating for policies that better serve them. Keep listening to their stories and supporting them. 



Challenge Guidelines

  • Sign up here to take part in this challenge
  • Attend both the Kickoff and Closing events
  • Each person should spend up to $29 for food and beverages during the Challenge week, which is the average benefit for a SNAP recipient in Virginia. All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including dining out, must be included in the total spending. 
  • Do some research and learn more about the SNAP program 
  • Visit our Dos and Don’ts of the Challenge for things to consider
  • During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchase for the project. If you eat food that you already have at home or that is given to you by friends, family, or work, account for it in your SNAP budget. 
  • Only buy and eat/drink items that are allowed to be purchased with food stamp benefits
  • Try to include fresh produce and a healthy protein each day.
  • Keep track of receipts on food spending and take notes of your experiences throughout the week.
  • Keep a daily journal of the experience. Did you feel deprived or restricted? Did you eat differently than usual? Were you hungry? How did this impact your daily decisions or experiences?  


What you can purchase with food stamp/SNAP benefits:

  • Produce and canned goods
  • Meat and dairy products
  • Dried goods, beans and rice
  • Breads and cereals
  • Baby food and infant formula
  • Soda, chips and candy
  • Coffee and tea
  • Seeds (whether for eating or planting)

What is not allowed through SNAP:

  • Hot food or any food that you eat in-store
  • Medicine and vitamins
  • Non-edible household items like paper towels, toilet paper and soap
  • Pet food  

Share your experience:
SNAP Challenge participants are encouraged to keep a daily journal and share their experiences—during and after the challenge—with SAIL as well as their friends, family and others. We just ask that you be mindful that your experience is your own. Recognize the privileges that mitigate your discomfort during the SNAP Challenge (employment, transportation, free time, etc.). Subsisting on $4 per day is just one aspect of poverty. Your fast has an end date, while SNAP recipients continuously live with the uncertainty of where the next meal is coming from.

  • Share your experiences through the hashtag #GMUSnapChallenge. Take us through your experience whether through video blogs, written blogs, social media posts etc. Be sure to tag SAIL as well! Take us shopping with you virtually, share your recipes and ideas. Our Instagram handle is @sailatmason
  • Tweet about it. Share your thoughts, photos, links to your blog posts and facts about hunger in Virginia or on the Mason campus. Use our handle, @SAILatMASON for possible re-tweets and continued conversation about the SNAP Challenge.
  • Blog about it. Post your daily journal online or write posts for your own blog. Include photos of your purchased food and meals. We would love to feature you on our SAIL blog! Send us your post at 
  • Use your voice—talk about your experience with others. Did you come away with greater awareness and understanding for the hunger challenges that affect so many in our community?  Have discussions with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. 
  • Take Action. At our closing event we will share ways to take action on hunger locally, globally as well as on campus with several of our community partners as well as student organizations. 


Participants who join us for the kickoff, closing and share a quick reflection whether through a social media post, blog post or video blog will receive a SAIL Swag bag including a reusable tote bag for your next trip to the grocery store!