LANSING — Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) recently concluded the Hunger Challenge, a one-week experience simulating the challenges faced every day by impoverished Michiganders. The representative agreed to live one week spending no more on $4.50 on food per person per day, which is comparable to the food budget available to a person who relies on the SNAP food assistance program to buy groceries.

“Participating in this event brought home some of the challenges faced by the working poor in our state,” said Brinks, whose family joined her in the challenge. “It’s simply not easy to spend just $4.50 per day on food, and by the end of the week, my family was going without some of their staple food items. Finding wholesome, nourishing food would be even more difficult if we lived in one of Michigan’s ‘food deserts,’ where there are no grocery stores within walking distance or accessible by public transportation.”

Following her one-week challenge, Brinks summed up her experience on her Facebook page. She wrote, “We thought about food a lot this week! What we are eating… if we’ll have enough to last the week… We had to do a better job planning things out, from pricing to menu planning, and being creative to make sure we had both healthy and inexpensive meals â?¦ The challenge was a great opportunity to walk in the shoes of SNAP recipients in this small way. We’ve had some great conversations this week, and we are more grateful than ever for all the blessings we have.”

Brinks made use of the Michigan “Double Up Food Bucks” program, which allows SNAP program recipients to double their buying power at local farmers’ markets. Brinks kicked off her Hunger Challenge week by shopping at the Fulton Street Farmers Market in Grand Rapids on Saturday, Sept. 14.

“Taking part in the Hunger Challenge made it clear to me just how vital the SNAP program is, not just for people struggling to feed their families, but for everyone who grows and sells food in Michigan,” Brinks said. “The money we spend on the food program flows directly from financially struggling families to farm families who are working hard to feed all of us. Every dollar spent on the SNAP program is a dollar invested in our community, and I’m grateful to have been a part of this event.”