Commission on Economic Opportunity 

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People Helping People

Hunger 101

Hunger 101 is a poverty simulation. It is a unique, enlightening experience that helps individuals begin to understand what life is like with a shortage of money, a shortage of food, and an abundance of stress. It moves people to think about the harsh realities of poverty and hunger. It encourages people to make a difference. The simulation is based on the Missouri Community Action model. Hunger 101 is facilitated by the CEO/Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank.

In the simulation, participants assume the roles of families facing a variety of challenging, but typical circumstances. Some are living on part-time jobs at minimum wage, others have recently become unemployed, and some are suddenly faced with the responsibility of raising grandchildren.

The program is conducted in a large room. Participants are seated in family clusters, and community resources are located at tables around the perimeter of the room. To start the simulation, each family is given a card explaining its unique situation, as well as a small amount of “money.” Then, the families must secure food, shelter, and other basic necessities by accessing the various resources during the course of four, 15-minute “weeks.” The activity works best with groups of 10 or more, to allow for a variety of family circumstances to be experienced. (Hunger 101 can be modified for smaller groups upon request.)

The activity lasts approximately two hours and includes an introduction and briefing by a facilitator, the simulation exercise itself, and a debriefing in which participants and volunteers share what they have learned about struggling with hunger and food insecurity. The simulation leaves a lasting impression on participants and communities.

Hunger 101 concludes with a tour of the Food Bank’s Center for Healthy Living and a hands-on volunteer opportunity to sort or pack food in our Food Bank. Please allow an additional 1-1½ hours for the tour and volunteer activity.

Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan Center for Healthy Living
Home of the CEO/Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank
185 Research Drive, Jenkins Twp, PA 18640

Mary Kay D'Elia
Commission on Economic Opportunity and the Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank 570-.826.0510 x215

Comments from participants

● "The Hunger 101 Simulation really put things in perspective for me. Until you walk in someone's shoes, you never really appreciate the struggles they are up against. Boxing the food items for delivery was a great team building activity and was a fun way to make a contribution."

● "The Hunger 101 experience demonstrates just how hard it is for the working poor to survive...including the navigation of the social services network. The program was "impactful" and makes you appreciate having a good job and income to support your family."

● "It was an eye-opening experience that helped me understand the daily challenges/struggles individuals need to overcome in order to provide for themselves and their family. I really did not appreciate just how hard it is to actually get assistance when needed."

● "I learned so much going through this experience. Naively, I thought that you can get what you need through food banks and assistance programs. I never thought of the concept of meeting nutritional requirements! It took so much work for my team to meet the requirements and that effort was just for one day. Having to worry about this daily for yourself and your family must be so draining."

● "I felt the interactive workshop provided some real insight in the day to day lives of many in our community, giving a real appreciation for what we have personally and a desire to do more to support those who struggle day to one should be expected to carry that burden daily.”

Hunger 101… 
CEO - People Helping People