Students live the life of poverty

More than 200 students participated in 100 Hours of Poverty, a program created to raise awareness of the challenges of living on a public assistance budget.

From November 10 to November 14, participants lived on $27.49 for the four days, or $6.48 per day.

This is the third year of the program, and was held in collaboration with the Child Advocacy clinic, Student Affairs, Campus Ministry and Academic Service Learning.

The goal of the program, according to Maggie Bach, group leader of the project and assistant director of leadership development and service, is to raise awareness of poverty, the difficulties of living on public assistance and the nearly impossible challenge of trying to eat healthy on that amount of money.

“This program is innovative in that it creates a service opportunity for students to get involved in that doesn’t require them to physically be anywhere,” Bach said.

Participants were able also to log onto social media sites each day and talk about the challenges and what they ate, and offer each other support.

They were also encouraged to keep a log of each day with the price to make sure they have been following the program correctly.

Junior Melissa McGrath said the change from her usual diet has had an observable influence on her physical wellbeing, mostly due to having to resort to cheap, and unhealthy, food items.

“I have been feeling much more sluggish, tired and even physically weak which is hard for me,” McGrath said.

Upon completing the program, Bach said the hope is that students will be able to help others who are less fortunate since they have experienced, even if only for a few days, what it is like to try and survive on a public assistance budget.

“St. John’s students are always willing to challenge themselves personally, especially when it comes to living in solidarity with the poor,” Bach said.

“One has to make very strict sacrifices in order to get food that will be fulfilling, even though it may not be enough overall” McGrath said. “Food insecurity in America is definitely present when it shouldn’t be since we are such a wealthy nation.”