By Shannon Morgano
June 5, 2014

It has been almost a week since we first arrived at the Aquinas Center ready, to begin our adventure in Philadelphia. We have experienced a lot, from learning the subway system to visiting all of the intern sites around the city. We have met dozens of people and answered the same questions numerous times all while learning so much about people and the work they do to make the world better for everyone. It has been a whirlwind so far and it is very exciting to think about what the next couple weeks will bring.

One of the biggest challenges we have faced so far is not navigating the streets or trying to remember which train will take us where, but rather it is participating in the Food Stamp Challenge. Over the course of five days, we are given 21 dollars each (126 dollars total) to spend on food and drinks, which boils down to 4 dollars per day. The purpose of the challenge is to experience what it is like to be reliant on SNAP or food stamps. People who utilize this program are given an average of 21 dollars a week to feed their families. On top of that there are restrictions on the kinds of food they can buy with the stamps.

We are about two days into the challenge and have successfully prepared two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners all under 4 dollars. To give you an idea of the kinds of food that are cheap, we have been eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit that is on sale, oatmeal, pasta, and vegetarian chili. So far it has gone fairly well none of us are starving and the food creates a similar diet to what most of us are used to eating.

There have been a few lessons we have learned while taking on this challenge. Firstly, it is difficult to eat healthy on food stamps. We are limited to inorganic fruits and vegetables because the fresh organic food is much more expensive. Additionally, whole wheat bread, which provides a lot more nutrients than white is twenty cents more. That may not seem like a lot but when you’re on a tight budget of a combined 22 dollars a day for six people, every cent counts. People on food stamps also have to eat a lot of processed and canned foods in order to stay within their means.

A fellow intern brought up another interesting point. We are only on this challenge for five days and really only have to focus on ourselves, we don’t have children to worry about like must people on food stamps. We really don’t know what it is like for the people who live like this day in and day out, worrying about every penny the spend while trying to put food on the table. The Food Stamp Challenge has definitely given us a new perspective and appreciation for those we are serving.

Shannon hails from Nazareth, PA, where she lives with her parents, three sisters, and two cats. She is a junior at Misericordia University, where she is majoring in psychology and pre-physical therapy. At school, she is involved in campus ministry, climbing league, and the student immigration reform group. She enjoys rock climbing, reading, and volunteering throughout her community. Shannon is very excited to be part of the internship program this summer and experience all the opportunities it has to offer.