The Law School’s Child Advocacy Clinic and St. John’s Campus Ministry are sponsoring an experiential poverty awareness event, 100 Hours of Poverty.  The basic idea is simple: Can you live for 100 hours on a foodstamp budget?  That’s $6.48 a day or $27.49 for the whole 100 hours.  The point is not to go hungry, but rather to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to live with “food insecurity.”  This is the second time that our Child Ad Clinic has sponsored this event.  I missed the first one, but I’m determined to experience it this time.  Karen is joining me, and the kids are participating for select meals.

The 100 hours began today at 1:00 p.m.  Now, nine hours in, I’ve already gained a new perspective on food prices and food choices.  I began this afternoon by shopping for generic food, paying far closer attention to prices than ever before.  Then tonight, the seven of us dined on spaghetti and meatballs ($2.11/serving) and salad ($0.51/serving).  Soon, I’ll start preparing my meals to bring to work tomorrow for lunch (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, $0.85 each) and for dinner (macaroni and cheese with chicken franks, $0.80 per serving).

It seems that getting enough calories will not be a problem.  Nor will taste be too much of a sacrifice (I actually like Ramen noodles).  But it’s already clear to me that this will not be easy: eating healthy will be a challenge, living without the convenience of prepared food will also be a challenge, as will drinking mostly water for 100 hours.  It’s also clear that living on a bare-bones budget is time consuming.  Planning, shopping, cooking — all must be done very carefully to stay on budget.  And, much like someone who is actually going hungry, I’m spending a lot of my time and energy thinking about food.

More than 200 students and others are participating.  If you’d like to join us, it’s not too late.  Instructions are here.  There’s also an active Twitter conversation going on here.  The experience is not designed to be an endurance contest or an ordeal; rather, it’s a chance to walk for short time in the shoes of the poor.  I expect that it will be enlightening.  I hope that it will be a blessing.

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