Food Budget Challenge Highlights Hunger In Vermont
Last week over 100 Vermonters participated in Hunger Free Vermont’s 5th Annual 3SquaresVT Challenge as part of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
Challenge participants were asked to eat on the average 3SquaresVT budget: approximately $36 for the week for one person. That's about $1.72 per meal.
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the 3SquaresVT program, formerly known as food stamps.
Marissa Parisi is the Executive Director of Hunger Free Vermont. She says the challenges helps participants to better understand the cost of food.
"I think it's very eye opening to folks, not only how little people receive in 3SquaresVT benefits," said Parisi. "But also the exorbitant cost of food at times, to really get good, nutritious food."
"I think it's very eye opening to folks, not only how little people receive in 3SquaresVT benefits, but also the exorbitant cost of food at times, to really get good, nutritious food." - Marissa Parisi, Hunger Free Vermont executive director
The budget was a challenge for most participants, including Selene Colburn, a University of Vermont faculty member.
"I wasn't entirely confident that the amount of food I bought was going to last through the week," she said.
Colburn also represents Ward 1 on Burlington's City Council. She says she ended up buying food that she normally would never eat, like noodles and frozen vegetables. She completed the challenge with one of her daughters, and said she thought about their food supply at every meal.
"There were a couple of nights where my kid ended up eating at a relative or friend's house, and so our food went a little bit longer," said Colburn. "At that point I became confident that we were going to be OK for the rest of the week."
"I have no illusions that I understand what the experience of someone experiencing food insecurity is like." - Selene Colburn, University of Vermont faculty member & Burlington city councilor
This is her second time completing the challenge. She says the first time around, she felt conflicted about it. She says she realizes a one-week challenge is not equal to the reality of living with food insecurity on a daily basis.
"I have no illusions that I understand what the experience of someone experiencing food insecurity is like," said Colburn.
But she says the awareness she's been able to spread has made the challenge worth it.
Currently, over 87,00 Vermonters, or one in seven, receive 3SquaresVT benefits.