Last week, David, Lili and I tried to live on the average food stamp allotment of $31.50 each, or just $1.50 per person per meal. We learned many different things from this experience. We learned that we simply do not eat at home or on our own dime for every meal. As much as I tried to pick a week to take the Challenge when we would not have fundraising dinners, luncheon meetings, last-minute invitations for meals at friends’ homes, etc. LIFE HAPPENS, and we eat. We have an amazing community that supports us in so many ways, including feeding us even more than we realized.

We also learned that being able to eat economically is made easier by having internet access and a newspaper subscription with coupons, having gas and a vehicle to take us to buy food wherever it is sold least expensively, having the time and energy to find bargains and take advantage of them, and having so many other resources that we take for granted.

We learned how often we spend $31.50 on food per person per day, or even per meal, without even thinking about it.

We learned that Starbucks, Subway, and Zoe’s Kitchen can survive without our business.

We learned that taking the Food Stamp Challenge is an educational exercise for us, but there are so many ways in which we have no concept of the challenges that people who actually survive on food stamps face.

The 18th century Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin said:

“If you want to raise a person from mud and filth, do not think it is enough to keep standing on top and reaching a helping hand down to the person. You must go all the way down yourself, down into mud and filth. Then take hold of the person with strong hands and pull the person and yourself out into the light.”

Jewish tradition teaches that it is not enough to make sure that others have enough to eat. We need to challenge ourselves to experience what those in need actually experience- the anxiety, the pain, even the humiliation- so that we always remain motivated to fight for economic justice and equal opportunity for all.

If you are interested in taking the Food Stamp Challenge yourself, to see what it might teach you, go to to learn more and sign up.

If you decide not to take the Challenge yourself at this time, please consider showing your support by making a donation to the North Texas Food Bank ( or to another advocacy group that is fighting for an end to poverty and hunger.

Nancy Kasten is a rabbi, educator and community volunteer in Dallas, Texas.Food Stamp Challenge