Have You Tried the Food Desert Challenge? I did – And it wasn’t Pretty | #FoodDesertChallenge, #TheYFeedsKid

This post about the Food Desert Challenge was sponsored by Y-USA as part of an influencer activation for Influence Central.

The Summer Slump.

We talk about how school age students can lose up to two months of reading and math development each summer. What we don’t talk about, however, is how before any learning can happen, children need to be physically healthy and well-nourished.

Food insecurity affects EVERY county in the United States. Many kids and families who rely on the school lunch program during the school year are left without access to healthy, nourishing food for everyone in the household.

To help people become more aware of the challenges that come with food insecurity, the Y issued the Food Desert Challenge.

Food Desert Challenge

My kids and I decided to take the Food Desert Challenge last week. As a “mindfully frugal” blogger, it should have been easy to feed my small family of 3 for a day on $20.

It wasn’t easy, especially when it came to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Here’s a sample day on the Food Desert Challenge.  Remember, I had $20 to feed myself (and adult woman), my son (8 year old boy) and daughter (6 year old girl) for one day.

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*Note: We ate all our meals at home. We definitely couldn’t have done this at a restaurant.

Day 1

Breakfast= $8

Bagels with Cream cheese x3: $3.50

2 large honeycrisp apples, cut up and shared: $4.50

After breakfast, I kinda went, “Oh, crap.” I just spent almost HALF of my money for the day on ONE meal. I should have replaced the honeycrisp apples with a cheaper option, like Empire apples or bananas.

Lunch: $2.50


Peanut Butter & Jam Sandwiches x3 = $.75 x 3 = $1.50

Organic Baby Carrots  = $1.00

Lunch was pretty boring. I needed to save up my money for dinner though. My son, who has a large appetite, was hungry. To be honest, so was I.

Dinner: $7.25

3 Chicken Breasts =$5.00

Homemade Tex-Mex Rice & Beans with canned goods

Can of corn = $.75

can of red beans = $1.25

1 cup of plain white rice = $.25

Snack: $1.00

 Microwave popcorn with butter: $1.00

We were all still hungry after dinner so we made a bag of microwave popcorn to share.


Our reaction: There was definitely not enough protein OR fruits and veggies in our day. As a result, none of us felt satisfied after any meal. Next time I would definitely add some eggs to the day, or possibly an egg salad sandwich, to increase the protein content.

The only veggies we were able to have were pretty starchy – carrots and canned corn, and we all only got 3 servings of these fruits and veggies per day. Growing children should get a variety of at least FIVE servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Frankly, we only did this intentionally for ONE day. The real Food Desert Challenge asks participants to go three days. I didn’t make it because even though I was buying produce in season, I wanted to supplement our meals with fresh vegetables. Plus, my son especially prefers more protein in his diet, in the form of meat.  So while our Food Desert Challenge was considered a failure of the challenge, it was still quite eye-opening.

This summer, the Y and the Walmart foundation are teaming up to provide over 5 million meals to kids 18 and under at 1,500 locations across the country through the Summer Food Program.

Looking for a Y Summer food program? You can search by zip code for a participating Y near you.

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