Students learn difficulty of proper nutrition after participating in UH food stamp challenge

Some University of Houston students were given $25 to feed themselves for a week, and now they're sharing what they learned
February 22, 2014 8:59:32 PM PST
Some University of Houston honors students walked in the shoes of the less fortunate this week, taking part in a food stamp challenge.

"You live off of $25 of food for an entire week, and I had no idea," UH student Denny Dao said.

It's called the Food Stamp Challenge, and some University of Houston students were given $25 to feed themselves for seven days.

"I underestimated the fact that it would be so hard," UH student Kristen Haney said.

Daphne Hernandez is an assistant professor in the UH Department of Health and Human Performance and tells us that $25 per adult is the average weekly amount available through food assistance. Her students will go on to careers as health professionals, and should know what that's like.

"We're in Harris County, and our rates of food insecurity, which is the rates of childhood hunger in the county, are really high. We're at a rate of 26 percent which is significantly higher than the national average of 22 percent," Hernandez said.

The students ate pasta, rice but limited fruits and vegetables and say they're learning about the choices necessary on a limited budget. Hernandez took the challenge along with her students, and it changed the way they looked at food and their resources.

"The first day, I was already experiencing tiredness and exhaustion," Haney said. "My body couldn't catch up with I was eating. It was too small, not enough food. I was trying to do my homework and I was just falling asleep."

"Lunch with my friends, dinner with my friends. Birthday dinners, I didn't even go because it was a whole bunch of appetizing food that I'm not going to eat," Dao said.

"Feeling the anxiety that my food wasn't going to last for seven days, and starting to count possible meals that I could make out of my spinach and broccoli," Hernandez said.

They hope the perspective they've gained this week will make their more understanding and compassionate health professionals.

"Each meal I eat and each bite I take, it's one that someone somewhere is wishing for and I need to be more thankful for what I'm eating," Haney said.

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