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SNAP Food Challenge FAQs

What is SNAP?
SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Formally known as Food Stamps, SNAP is the largest nutrition assistance program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The goal of the program is “to alleviate hunger and malnutrition … by increasing food purchasing power for all eligible households who apply for participation” as stated in the Food Stamp Act of 1977, as amended (P.L. 108-269). The program provides monthly benefits to eligible low-income families, which can be used to purchase food. For more information about SNAP, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/Default.htm.

What is the SNAP Food Challenge?
The SNAP Food Challenge asks participants to live on a meal budget of $4.38 per day for seven days, which is the average SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) benefit amount for a South Carolinian.

Why take The Food Challenge?
“The SNAP Challenge gives participants a view of the struggle to obtain adequate food that is faced by millions of low-income Americans. By living on the average food stamp benefit, Challenge participants find themselves forced to make food shopping choices on a limited budget, and learn how difficult it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy without adequate resources. While living on a food stamp budget for just a week cannot come close to the struggles encountered by low-income families week after week and month after month, it does provide those who take the Challenge with a new perspective and greater understanding.” -Food Research & Action Center

Why can’t I accept free food/drinks during the challenge?
In the spirit of the challenge, we ask that you do not accept free food or drink so that you can have the full experience of living on a limited budget. For example, if you were to accept a free lunch, you now have an extra $1.46 in your budget. If you are at an event or meeting that is providing you with a meal, we ask that you reduce your weekly budget by $1.46 for each meal received.

Why can’t I use food that I already have in my pantry or garden for free?
Again, in the spirit of the challenge, we ask that you account for all food consumed in your budget even if you have it already in your pantry or garden. Many individuals living off SNAP benefits do not have the resources to have a stocked pantry or a garden to grow their own food and must live week to week on the food they can purchase.

Then why am I allowed to use condiments, spices, or seasonings in my pantry?
Since these types of items tend to last for longer periods, are not usually consumed in one week, and the cost breakdown of a serving is minimal, we are not considering them part of your $30.66 per week budget.

What if I have a meal plan at USC Upstate?
If you are on a meal plan, we do not have an adjusted budget to account for the cost of the food already purchased. If you wish to participate in the challenge, you will need to account for the food at the cost per meal in the dining hall and/or not eat in the dining hall during the week of the challenge. The cost for breakfast is $4, lunch is $5, and dinner is $5. 

Can I sign up for the SNAP Food Challenge even if I cannot participate the full seven days?
Yes! You will just need to modify your budget. For example, if you will only be able to participate for 4 days, you will need to multiply the daily budget of $4.38 by 4 days (or $17.52) or if you can only participate for six-and-one-half days, you will need to multiply the meal budget of $1.46 by the number of meals (in this case, 20 meals or a weekly budget of $29.20).

Other Federal Programs

What is WIC?
Also administered by the USDA, WIC stands for Women, Infants, and Children and provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk. For more information about WIC, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic.  

Is WIC a subcomponent of SNAP?
No. While both are administered by the USDA, the programs have different missions, application processes and requirements. Someone receiving SNAP benefits may not be eligible for WIC and some WIC recipients do not receive SNAP benefits. The food items that can be purchased using WIC benefits are more restrictive than those allowed by SNAP and are established to help meet the nutritional needs of pregnant or breastfeeding mothers and their children.

Why can people buy junk food using SNAP benefits?
The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 defines an eligible food as "any food or food product for home consumption" and also includes seeds and plants which produce food for consumption by SNAP households." Any change to this definition would require a new law.

What does food insecurity mean?
Food insecurity exists when people lack sustainable physical or economic access to enough safe, nutritious and socially-acceptable food for a healthy and productive life. Food insecurity may be chronic, seasonal or temporary.

What percentage of South Carolina residents are food insecure?
In 2010, the rate was 18.8 percent or 870,420 people. Of, this, 27.1 percent of all children were food insecure. For more information, visit http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-studies/map-the-meal-gap.aspx.  

How does that compare to the national percentage of food insecurity?
Nationally in 2010, the overall rate was 16.1 percent, with 21.6 percent accounting for children. For more information, visit http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-studies/map-the-meal-gap.aspx.

What about the stereotype that people receiving SNAP benefits don’t work or have a college degree?
Hunger is not an issue just for the people who struggle with poverty and homelessness. Only 10 percent of the Feeding America client households are homeless and 36 percent of individuals served by the Feeding America network have at least one working adult in their household. Also, 17 percent of adults interviewed during the 2010 Hunger Study conducted by Feeding America have attended college or a technical school. For more information, visit http://feedingamerica.org/


2013 SNAP Food Challenge
February 20-26, 2013
Sponsored by the Office of Student Life

Take the Challenge!
Click here to register
Deadline: Thursday, February 14 at Noon 

Kara Ferguson
Assistant Director
Office of Student Life
800 University Way
Spartanburg, SC 29303