SNAP Challenge

SNAP stands for “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”. This is the name for the Federal program that allows low-income families and individuals to purchase food at local grocery stores. Although funds are now distributed with electronic cards, SNAP is still commonly known as “Food Stamps”.

A SNAP challenge is to limit your food budget to the average daily benefit that recipients of SNAP receive. This is, as of 2018, only $4 per person per day (even less for households). As the name suggests, this is only a supplement to food received from food banks and shelters. Doing this challenge in the season of Advent prepares us for the coming of our Lord by doing very traditional acts of penance, fasting and almsgiving, in a modern way.

How to Complete the SNAP Challenge


Make an account of what you normally spend on food – don’t forget eating out, food delivery, and that daily snack or coffee.


Check out our online virtual food bank where you’ll find a list of 25 of the best foods for food donations. Similar lists can be found by doing an online search. Think about foods you have donated in the past.


Do a virtual food bank run at any grocery store. The challenge is to only purchase food that one would normally find in a food bank. You only get one chance to do this per week (many food banks are only open one day a week, some as little as once a month). You are also limited to what you can carry by hand (many low-income people do not have transportation and live miles from their nearest food bank).


Fill out the SNAP challenge calculator with your numbers from the steps above. It will calculate your spending limit and how much you would save if you followed the challenge all the way through. You may purchase any food you can find at your local grocery store. We hope that you will donate some portion of your savings to a local food bank to help a person in need.


We would like to know your experiences! Make a pledge on our facebook page. Share pictures of your “Food Bank Run”. What recipes could you manage on such a shoestring budget and limited choices? Tell us about other ways and other worthy Charities to feed the hungry.

Food Banks serving Alexandria

Capital Area Food Bank
Christ House
Catholic Charities

Additional Information

How does this help end hunger?

Honestly, we have to face the reality that even if this challenge were to be a huge success (many families participating and donating), it will only scratch the surface of the poverty and hunger just in the City of Alexandria. However, I do hope taking on this challenge allows us to see how inadequate existing programs (charitable and government) are in meeting the needs of our neighbors and that we could always do more.

Should I donate food or cash to a food bank?

A cash donation goes a lot farther than food you’ve purchased.

Why does the calculator ask for money spent on school food?

Many children receive reduced-price meals in schools. The calculator subtracts the amount from your total spending.

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