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Poverty Challenge

The Buffalo Poverty Challenge is a conscious raising event about poverty in New York state. It is a full two day challenge in which participants will attempt to stick to a specific, poverty-level budget and record their choices regarding their spending and experiences.  All of these options are described in more detail below.  The Poverty Challenge as not an attempt to “play poor,” rather it is designed to show solidarity with those in poverty and serve as an introduction to those not familiar with the issue. For those of us with means, imagining poverty is a very different exercise than actually trying to live within the bounds of poverty. Poverty imposes decision-making situations that those of means never experience.

How to Participate in the Poverty Challenge

    Reference Document: Public Assistance (Excel)
    This document will give you a sense of what it is like to live on public assistance. Despite public perceptions of lavish lifestyles lived on public assistance, the government’s aid is not very lucrative. Could you keep your expenses in check? We updated this sheet with information compiled from the Erie County Department of Social Services and the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance. If you

    Reference Document: Interactive Budget

    This spreadsheet will allow you to keep track of your expenses, and plan how you will spend your money when you lack it. In addition, this budget lets you compare the expenses and long-term financial outcome for life on a minimum wage job or poverty wages.

    Reflection Tool: Minimum Wage Budget Journal

    What sort of decisions did you make when you were participating? What did you struggle with? Was something surprising? Document it here. Also – we’d love to hear about your experiences, and would be interested in publishing them on our website if you would like to share it.

    Another Option: Food Stamp Budget

    Despite a perception that those living on food stamps could regularly afford steak and lobster, this document lets you see if your family could eat off of food stamps for a week on actual benefit amounts that New York State families receive. With this option, you participate in the Poverty Challenge as you would, only instead of all of your expenses, you focus on food, and instead of two days, you do it for a week.

    A Taste of the Poverty Challenge: Play Spent

    “Spent” is a quick, online simulation of what life is like when you have very limited resources. It gives you a sense of the cost-benefit trade-offs one must make when they live in poverty, and you’ll quickly find, life is expensive even when you try to make it cheap.