Monday, January 18, 2010

Need your help with a lesson plan I'm doing on poverty

New lesson based on everyone's feedback


According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the poverty line for a family of four (2009) is $22,250 (http://aspe.hhs.gov). If minimum wage in Illinois is $8/hour, a person could work every single day of the year, seven days a week, eight hours a day, and barely make more than $23,360 which is considered above the poverty line. Do you know anyone who works every day of the year 8 hours a day? Probably not.
Imagine, you are one of two parents in a household or even 1 of 1 parent in a household with three children. How far can $23,360 go?


Let’s use the $23,360 number and even round it up to $24,000. Now YOU are the head of the family. Your family of four has to live on $2,000/month. The average rent in Chicago for a 2 bedroom apartment is $1,000 a month (not in Lakeview or Lincoln Park- it’s about double that) What do you do?
So now you have $1000/month to use for the basics: food, clothes, gas or CTA passes, electric bill, etc.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates about 12.5 percent of the average family's spending goes toward food, while the Department of Agriculture puts the figure at 9.8 percent.

One thing that is for sure: Grocery prices jumped sharply in recent years — up 4.2 percent in 2007 and 6.4 percent in 2008, according to BLS. USDA projects they'll rise as much as 3.5 percent for the year.” Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29681240/ns/business-food_inc/

For our project, you will use the 10 percent figure, which would mean $100/month on groceries to feed your family of four. That is about $3.33 to spend on groceries per day for a family of four. You have $30 to spend, so that would be about 9 days worth of groceries. Please by this family of four 9 days worth of groceries with your $30.

We will be donating this food, so please make sure that it is food that you would actually want to eat, that it has some diversity (don’t buy 100 boxes of Mac & Cheese), and that it’s non perishable.
Good luck!






Follow up questions:

What kinds of food were you able to buy? What foods did you want to buy and couldn’t?

Would this be enough to sustain your family for four days?

This family would probably qualify for food and housing subsidies from the government. Should they use them?

How much money do you spend on food for a week?

What did you learn from this activity?









..................

This is a lesson I am going to do this Sunday with 12 eighth graders. I am asking for your feedback to make sure that my math is correct and if I should add or subtract anything to or from it. For the record, I did not come up with this idea (young people going to a grocery store and buying food with a limited amount of money, seeing how expensive things are), but I did research these statistics and came up with this particular lesson plan. Your feedback is encouraged.


According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the poverty line for a family of four (2009) is $22,250 (http://aspe.hhs.gov). If minimum wage in Illinois is $8/hour, a person could work every single day of the year, seven days a week, eight hours a day, and barely make more than $23,360 which is considered above the poverty line and therefore qualifying for fewer government aid services.
Do you know anyone who works every day of the year 8 hours a day? Probably not.
Imagine, you are one of two parents in a household or even 1 of 1 parent in a household with three children. How far can $23,360 go?

Not very far.

Let’s use the $23,360 number and even round it up to $24,000. Now YOU are the head of the family. Your family of four has to live on $2,000/month. The average rent in Chicago for a 2 bedroom apartment is $2,000 a month (including water and electricity). What do you do? Live in a 1 Bedroom apartment and have your kids sleep in the living room and pay $1,300/month (including water and electricity).
So now you have $700/month to use for the basics: food, clothes, gas or CTA passes, etc.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates about 12.5 percent of the average family's spending goes toward food, while the Department of Agriculture puts the figure at 9.8 percent.

One thing that is for sure: Grocery prices jumped sharply in recent years — up 4.2 percent in 2007 and 6.4 percent in 2008, according to BLS. USDA projects they'll rise as much as 3.5 percent for the year.” Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29681240/ns/business-food_inc/

For our project, you will use the 10 percent figure, which would mean $70/month on groceries to feed your family of four and you are still not considered poor. There are four weeks in a month, so that means $17.50 to spend on your family of four per week. You and your partner are going to have $30 to spend. With that $30 you are going to need to buy 12 days worth of food for your family of four. You have 30 minutes to do so.

We will be donating this food, so please make sure that it is food that you would actually want to eat, that it has some diversity (don’t buy 100 boxes of Mac & Cheese), that it’s non perishable, and by the way, this family keeps Kosher! So everything has to be kosher with a kosher symbol.

Follow up questions:
What kinds of food were you able to buy?
Would this be enough to sustain your family for four days?
What did you learn from this activity?

6 comments:

Caroline said...

More debriefing questions: What food did you want to buy, but couldn't? What was more affordable? What surprised you about the cost of food?

Separate from questions of poverty...most kids at this age don't go to the grocery store with their parents and often do not have any contact with (or thought about) food before they open their cabinet or refrigerator doors. They know it will be there; it always has been. How does that reality (not a bad reality, by the way) affect this exercise for them?

scarpetta said...

Comments from friends:

Falan Austin powerful & not just for 8th graders.

Yesterday at 4:54pm · Sharna Marcus how can it be better?

Yesterday at 4:57pm · Maxine Alloway This looks like a great lesson. Are the kids going to be at the supermarket? What's the most important thing you want them to take away from the lesson?

Yesterday at 5:28pm · Rebecca Finkel what a great lesson! if they keep kosher, do they keep shabbat too? that would makes things even harder! each group of partners could also have a special circumstance to factor in: eg. one kid has a peanut allergy/ a family member has a birthday during that time/ one kid has a friend over to dinner/ one parent has diabetes, etc. how do these things impact food choices? etc. maybe that's too much, but these are very real issues...
ok, i have to go back to work.

Yesterday at 5:31pm · Sharna Marcus that even if a family is above the poverty line, it's still hard to get by and that charities that support such people are important

·

scarpetta said...

more comments from friends

Yesterday at 5:56pm · Jordan Blumenthal Cool lesson. Love the idea (you could also use some multimedia: that old episode of Roseanne when she does something like this with, I think, Darlene's Home Economics class).

Few things:
--Your income figure doesn't take into account taxes. Figuring them out would require various assumptions, and is probably just a pain, and this family wouldn't really end up paying a whole lot (at least in absolute numbers), so you might just want to acknowledge it in a and-you-think-it's-hard-now kind of way.
...
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--Your figures don't account for government benefit programs that this family would be eligible for (though not all eligible families get the benefits, for various reasons) -- especially for this exercise, food stamps, now called SNAP: http://www.fns.usda.gov/FSP/applicant_recipients/eligibility.htm

--Your numbers on rent seem crazy high to me. (And also don't account for government benefit programs.) If you're using the citywide averages, that's an inflated figure when it comes to this family.

--Interestingly, according to the SNAP website, "SNAP households" (quite the euphemism) are expected to spend 30% of their resources on food. (Like citywide rent averages, national food-spending percentage averages are skewed--in this case, decreased--by higher income households.)

All that is to say, your ultimate allotment of $30 for 12 days for a family of 4, is lowballing the numbers for a family of 4 with the gross income you offer (especially if they are able to get the benefits of various government programs). But it makes the point. So that's good.

Potential parallel exercises:
(1) Have them plan a week's worth (or a few day's worth) of menus using the food they bought, and see how hard it is to get any variety and how quickly the food goes.
(2) Have them sit down and figure out how much money they spend on food in a week themselves. Would be better with high school kids, who eat out more, but even 8th graders buy cokes and candy and maybe lunch at school -- which adds up surprisingly quickly. If this is an ongoing class, you could also have them keep track of their spending for the following week, even checking grocery receipts from their parents.

Yesterday at 6:02pm · Sharna Marcus
Nice. I'm game to change it. What number should I use?

scarpetta said...

more comments from friends


Yesterday at 6:03pm · Drew Patty Well, if you want to make it more complicated, try introducing nutrition into it.

Also, something to keep in mind is that despite how crazy high food prices are, certain basic food prices are still surprising low. For example, many vegetables and even some fruits are still pretty darned cheap.

Are Ramen noodles kosher? There's a score right there. What they lack in price they also lack in taste.
Yesterday at 6:11pm ·


Sholom Sandalow I'd remove this part...
"which is considered above the poverty line and therefore qualifying for fewer government aid services" because it's more powerful a statement without it.

Yesterday at 8:56pm · Sharna Marcus thanks

Yesterday at 9:02pm · Eric Marcus The average rent for a 2 bedroom in Lincoln Park might be $2,000 per month but there are plenty of places in the city where you could get a 2 bedroom for $800-1,000 per month. Paragraph about rising food prices seems unnecessary for purposes of this project.

Yesterday at 11:16pm · Sharna Marcus Thanks.

Yesterday at 11:28pm · Jill Jacobs Hi Sharna--there are a bunch of resources that can help you with this. Here are a few--for the "self-sufficiency" wages for every county in the US: http://www.wowonline.org/ For the official fair-market rent for housing in every county (including the "housing wage"): www.nlihc.org (look at the "out of reach" report). Also, take a look at the ... See Morechapter on the poverty line in my book: http://www.amazon.com/There-Shall-Be-Needy-Tradition/dp/1580233945/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263901464&sr=8-1 (I assume the B&N in Lakeview will have it as well). No need to come up with numbers on your own. Also, if you can get your hands on a copy of the middle school curriculum I wrote for JCUA, there's a lesson plan on budgeting (though the numbers will be a few years old) Good luck!
14 hours ago · Norman Eliaser You might want to see the comments on my Fb page where I shared your link. Maybe "Like" it or "Thank" the current posters to see if anyone else comments.
10 hours ago · Sharna Marcus thanks Jill
a few seconds ago

scarpetta said...

more comments by friends of friends


Ruth Balinsky
I don't really see why you should have the family keep kosher. It will just give the students a reason to think that people who don't keep kosher "don't have it as bad" cause they could always buy cheaper meat, etc. Don't keep them guessing, or give them an excuse - they should know how bad it is. Also, it detracts attention from the 99.9% of America that is extremely poor and not Jewish.

Yesterday at 8:21pmCarol Pellish On this budget, I'm not sure meat is on the menu, kosher or not. Growing up, my family used to eat on a poverty budget for one week a year to remind us of how fortunate we truly were. I remember lots of beans and rice.

11 hours agoSharna Marcus Thanks for your comments. The food has to be kosher because it will be stored in the synagogue. But I might change my phrasing so it's not that end and sounds so bad: like not only are you poor, you keep kosher. Yeah, that's not what I meant, but that's what it sounds like. Thank you for pointing that out.

scarpetta said...

by Vinnie P

Almost half of poor live in suburbs, study says
January 19, 2010 11:21 PM | No Comments
The number of poor people increased 5.2 million in the last decade and almost of half of them are living in America's suburbs, according to a report released Wednesday by the Brookings Institution.

The number of poor grew by 25 percent in suburbs from 2000 to 2008--almost five times the growth rate in primary cities--making the suburbs home to the largest and fastest growing poor population in the country, according to the study, "The Suburbanization of Poverty: Trends in Metropolitan America, 2000 to 2008."

Chicago too has seen a significant increase in the suburban share of the metro area's poor. In 2008, 51.9 percent of poor people lived in the Chicago area's biggest cities, which include Naperville and Joliet, compared to 48.1 percent in the suburbs.

Based on increases in unemployment throughout 2009, Brookings projects that the Chicago metro area may experience an increase in its poverty rate of approximately 2.3 percentage points.

"This trend toward the 'suburbanization' of poverty is only likely to continue in the wake of the most recent recession," said Elizabeth Kneebone, a Brookings senior research analyst and co-author of the report.

Nationwide, the poor population increased by 15.4 percent from 2000 to 2008, which led to a significant increase in the nation's poverty rate. By 2008, 13.2 percent of Americans lived below the poverty line, which is $21,834 for a family of four.

--Kristen Mack