Could you live on $29/week? Over 38 Million Americans do each day!


We invite you to take the SNAP Hunger  Challenge!

Sign up here to participate

For Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Social Action and Integrative Learning (SAIL) will be hosting the SNAP challenge. From November 15-22, we invite you to participate in the SNAP Hunger Challenge and live on $4.13 a day for seven days. (Note: If you live in a different state, we encourage you to follow the average for your state) $128/month was the average amount individuals in Virginia were receiving from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in 2019, though it varies greatly due to family size, income etc.

To qualify for SNAP, a household generally has to meet two income thresholds: total income and net income (that is, total income minus deductions for things like child support, some medical expenses, and some housing costs). The SNAP formula assumes that households will spend 30 percent of their income on food, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains, but for many low-income Americans, 30 percent of income is not enough to eat. 

So when the average person gets a little over $4 a day in benefits, the SNAP formula assumes that person has other money to spend on food. The government doesn't in fact expect people to live on $4 a day. However, there are challenges inherent within access to food and how we address food insecurity and poverty in the US that this challenge can highlight. We recognize this is a part of a larger and more complex social issue around hunger and poverty and can oversimplify poverty in the US and will work to provide education opportunities and activities that address some of these complexities. Our hope and goal is that this has an impact long past the event to have a better understanding of the power imbalances and inequity related to food insecurity in our community.



The SNAP challenge is an educational campaign where people are encouraged to budget as a person in the US on SNAP for just one week. The SNAP Challenge gives participants a glimpse into some of the struggles faced by millions of low-income Americans who are trying to put food on their tables. The Challenge provides an opportunity for participants to experience how difficult it is for families living on SNAP to simultaneously avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy with limited resources.


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!