Could You Feed Your Family on $5 a Day? – Food Desert Challenge

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This post was sponsored by Y-USA as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central.

It’s a question that those of us take for granted if we have the food we need. But there is a real challenge in America with the ability to get healthy food for our families. The struggle is even worse for children that rely on the school system to provide two of their meals for the day. But when the kids are on break, they may not get to eat at all some days. A heartbreaking fact about having food deserts in America. 

A food desert is a geographic area where affordable and nutritious food is alleged to be hard to obtain, particularly for those without access to an automobile. – Wikipedia

The YMCA has made a commitment to keeping kids healthy with the Y’s Summer Food Program, which provides kids nutritious meals and snacks as well as recreational and learning activities to keep them active throughout the summer. Thanks to support from the Walmart Foundation, the Y will provide 5 million meals and snacks to 250,000 kids and teens at 1,500 locations.You can also donate at your local clubs that are participating. My oldest and husband have donated their time to make and deliver meals for the Y’s Food Programs, they helped during the Thanksgiving one last year.  To help drive more support and awareness of the Y’s Summer Food Program, the Y created the Food Desert Challenge. A challenge that asks you, can you survive on $5 a day? My family took the Food Desert Challenge this past weekend and took an extra step by camping to make sure there was no cheating.

I was provided a $60 budget in order to feed 4 people over a 3 day period. This challenge was especially hard for us because we eat organic groceries and shop at farmers markets for fresh produce. Not only is it more expensive to eat like this, it isn’t available in a lot of areas, which was the case where we went camping. One thing you also have to remember about this challenge is that I pretty much failed right from the start simply because I bought our food at a grocery store. Kids living in the city that only have access to convience stores don’t have the luxury of fresh produce that can be found at a regular grocery store. Prices at these stores are also higher than grocery stores. A loaf of plain white bread at a grocery store is around $1.69 while it can be $3.99 at a corner store in the city. Add in a jar of $2 peanut butter and you’ve broken your budget for the day. 

The best way to plan for a Food Desert Challenge is to meal plan for the 3 days. Then walk through the store with your list, a pen, and a calculator so that you can make sure you stay on budget. We ate a lot of the same meals each day mainly because of the fact that we were camping and it was just easier to prepare the food. 


Eggs x2 – $1.59

Bacon – $4.49

Cereal – $4.78

Milk – $2.49


Bananas – $1.10

Grapes – $2.98


Plain white bread – $1.69

Turkey – $3.29

Cheese – $4.99

Mustard – $1.29


Chicken (4.5 lbs) – $8.80

Broccoli – $1.58

Organic canned corn x2 – .69 (it was the same price as the non-organic corn)

Brown Rice – .98

Ground Beef – $2.77

Pasta – $1

Pasta Sauce – $1.50

Total – 51.19 (with tax)

After you factor in the gas to get to the store I was still in budget. 

The main thing about eating our meals is that we ate smaller portions to make the meals stretch longer. I also forgot to factor in cooking oils, salt and pepper. We also had to sacrifice a lifestyle choice of eating organically in order to do this.  

We splurged on s’mores also. We were camping after all. 

Do you think your family could take the Food Desert Challenge? Try it for yourself and see! 

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  1. I think we could do it. We budget $175/week for food for 6 people. So, $5/person/meal is $210. Of course we don’t do organic, but I think it’s quite doable. however, that does take into consideration carryover of things that we don’t buy every week like peanut butter.

  2. I was surprised to see how hard it is to get the produce in some areas. When I was in grade school, I was taught that we don’t really have an amount-of-food problem globally, it’s the transportation of said food that is the problem.


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Meghan Cooper is a writer, content creator, movie critic, and geek living in Atlanta, Ga. She loves movies, traveling, and lots of coffee. Member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association, Georgia Film Critics Association, and Atlanta Film Critics Circle.

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