Members of the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Food Coalition, United Way of Greater Chattanooga, and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and members of his office are joining Junior League of Chattanooga in taking the SNAP Challenge the week of Nov. 4-10.
Participants in the Challenge pledge to use the average food stamp benefit – $30.80 a week per person in Tennessee – as their total budget for groceries for the seven days of the Challenge.
SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is the new name for the federal food stamp program, and the SNAP Challenge gives participants a view of what life can be like for millions of low-income Americans. Challenge participants must make difficult food shopping choices on $4.40 a day and often realize how hard it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods and stay healthy, officials said
“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,” said Tahnika Rodriguez, president of the Junior League of Chattanooga. “We hope to shed some light on the challenges facing many of our neighbors and the need to provide for low-income residents of our area.”
More than 60,000 Hamilton County residents face additional issues when shopping for food since they live in food deserts where there is no convenient access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Junior League’s current community impact program, Seeds of Change, focuses on eradicating food deserts in Hamilton County, and many SNAP Challenge participants will take the added step of doing their grocery shopping for the week in food desert neighborhoods.
“Many food desert families would like to eat healthier, but it’s hard to do when your only grocery shopping is at a convenience store or a dollar store that’s near your house,” said Mrs. Rodriguez. “If you don’t have transportation or if you have to ride a bus and make multiple stops to get to a grocery store, then it’s often easier to eat whatever is available nearby even if it isn’t healthy.”
One way area leaders are addressing this situation is with the Chattanooga Mobile Market, which brings fresh produce and other healthy items to food desert neighborhoods to supplement the available grocery shopping. The Chattanooga Mobile Market was founded through a partnership between Gaining Ground, the YMCA, the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, and Hamilton County’s Step 1 program, and Junior League members help with the market’s community outreach efforts. A schedule of Mobile Market stops is available at www.chattanoogamobilemarket.org.
As households throughout Tennessee continue to face economic struggles, the state’s food stamp program serves as a critical resource. According to data collected by Gallup and analyzed by the Food Research and Action Center, more than 1.3 million Tennesseans receive SNAP benefits, a 44.5 percent increase over the past five years.
Because of the level of food insecurity faced by many families throughout our community, Mayor Berke decided the SNAP Challenge warranted participation from City Hall. “This illustrates a very real problem that so many in our community face, every day,” he said. “Hunger impacts a person’s quality of life and chance of success. It’s extremely difficult for a child to focus in school or a parent to empower themselves in a new career if they are worried where their next meal will come from.”
Food stamps help millions of low-income people purchase food each month. Eligibility is based on income and assets depending on household size. In addition to helping families make ends meet, food stamps also give back to a state’s economy. For every $5 in food stamps used in grocery stores or at local farmers’ markets, close to $10 is generated in local economic activity.
To join the Chattanooga/Hamilton County SNAP Challenge, register online at ow.ly/px9P4.
Junior League of Chattanooga’s SNAP Challenge participants will document their experiences through social media using hashtag #SNAPchatt. Learn more at www.jlchatt.org and follow the Challenge on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JLChattanooga, or search the hashtag #jlchatt..