On one hand, it was close enough that it comes down to interpretation of the rules. Jordan and I are leery of the requirement that you include the cost of food given to you or eaten at someone else’s house; it decreases the realism of the simulation and creates unnecessary tension when friends who don’t know about the challenge invite you over. We have a friend who never visits without bringing a gallon or two of Fosselman’s ice cream–truly the sort of friend you have to appreciate–and whether we are required to include the price determines whether or not we win. But this isn’t a game and rules lawyering is not the appropriate attitude.
It isn’t a game. That’s the other reason why I don’t want to declare a “win” or a “loss” because in this context they’re meaningless, and even harmful, concepts. If you succeed in living on a SNAP budget, what are you going to do? Declare that living off food stamps is easy and anyone could do it? Claim that you now understand the lives of the poor and are qualified to speak for them? In this case, failure, casting into sharp relief one’s own dependency on an affluent lifestyle, would be more eye-opening.
In the end, a challenge like this is simply a discipline. One benefits from the experience, but deserves to neither be lauded for success or berated for failure.
WWI propaganda poster from Wikimedia Commons.