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UNH Offers Food Challenge: Eat on $3.13 a Day

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
November 19, 2008

A gallon of store-brand milk is more than $3. A half-gallon of orange juice is about the same. And some varieties of bread are selling for nearly that amount.

So, $3. For one item.

Imagine what it would be like to try and eat on that every day.

That’s what members of the university community are in the process of doing as they participate in “$3.13 A Day,” a food challenge running through Friday, Nov. 21, that aims to raise awareness of what it’s like to eat on a limited budget.

Why $3.13? Because that’s the average amount paid per day by the federal government to an adult receiving food assistance. Formerly known as food stamps, the name was changed to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to better reflect the focus on healthy eating.

The goal of $3.13 A Day, according to organizers, is to raise awareness about how we spend money on food as well as highlighting the need for workers to earn livable wages. People need to learn to think outside the box, says Joanne Burke, director of the dietetic internship program at UNH.

“As director, one of my main goals is to train young professionals to understand what it is like to eat on a budget,” Burke says. “Participating in something like this food challenge is a way to get the conversation started.”

Increasing SNAP benefits isn’t the answer, Burke says; long-term solutions and actions are needed. But she uses the monthly allotments to underscore the need for a working wage. To qualify for SNAP, a family of four can’t earn more than $27,500 annually.

SNAP helps 28 million low-income individuals a month.

According to data released last month in a Carsey Institute report, 79 percent of jobs in New Hampshire do not pay a wage sufficient for single-parent families with two children to provide basic needs such as housing, food, transportation, child care and health care.

Additionally, the lowest estimated livable wage for a two-parent family with one child (both parents working) in Coos County is $8.49 while the highest livable wage estimate is $22.24 for a single person with two children in Rockingham County.

New Hampshire’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

Burke knows how hard it is to eat for just $3.13 a day: she and her husband have been participating in the food challenge since it began on Nov. 15. What are they eating?

“More potatoes and less colorful fruits and vegetables,” she says. “You talk about it but, boy, trying to do it is another thing. It puts it in practical terms.”

And that’s what $3.13 A Day is all about: the reality.

“It provides a good excuse to have a more frank discussion,” Burke says.

Sponsors of the event include the UNH Dietetic Internship Program, the Discovery Program, the dual major in ecogastronomy and the Office of Sustainability.  For more information go to http://www.unh.edu/the313foodchallenge.

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