Can you live on $4.20 a day? Utahns challenged to try to live on food stamps for a week

Posted at 2:06 PM, Aug 21, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY — A group that advocates for low income Utahns has issued a challenge to the state’s elected leaders: Can you live on $4.20 a day, for just a week?

That’s how much the average person gets on federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to eat. Utahns Against Hunger has issued a challenge to Utah’s elected officials to try living on $4.20 a day (or about $1.20 per person, per meal) for a week, from Sept. 15-21.

The challenge has been issued to all of Utah’s elected officials, but in particular it is aimed at the congressional delegation who have input on the budget for SNAP.

“Who goes hungry?” asked Gina Cornia, the director of Utahns Against Hunger. “Who is going to deserve to go hungry if these programs are cut?”

So far, Cornia said, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox has expressed some interest. Rep. Mia Love’s office told FOX 13 it received an invite, but has not made a decision on whether she will participate. Other members of the delegation did not return messages seeking comment on Monday.

The challenge has some rules: You can eat fast food or dine out, but that counts toward the overall spending; don’t eat food already in your pantry (including condiments); avoid free food from family, friends or work to understand what someone on a SNAP budget really has to go through.

Cornia said living on the food stamps is not easy, but you can do it.

“It is absolutely doable to have a healthy diet and have good meals, but it also takes other resources to do it,” she said. “You have to know how to cook. You have to have transportation to go find all the sales.”

That’s easier said than done, especially if you work full time or have children. So what often happens is people buy bulk foods.

“You can afford a lot of Top Ramen. You can afford a lot of macaroni and cheese,” Cornia said. “Really, highly processed and not nutritional food.”

Certainly, people do find ways to stretch meals. Children can qualify for free breakfasts and reduced lunches at schools. There are 21 farmer’s markets in Utah that now let you double the amount you can spend on produce there. Cornia said when she tried the challenge, she ate a lot of potatoes (but eventually got sick of it).

Beyond politicians, Cornia urged all Utahns to try it to experience a little empathy for those who go hungry.

Anyone interested in learning more or participating in the Utah SNAP Challenge can find out more here.