Poverty exists regardless of the economy, but with the current recession increasing the number of people living in extreme low-income situations, the Purdue University Cooperative Extension is offering a poverty simulation to help college students and communities understand what poverty actually looks like. "With 32.9 million Americans living below the poverty line, and thousands more living just above it, it's important for people to understand what that means—especially for those who work with those living in poverty," said Angie Abbott, Purdue Extension foods and nutrition specialist.
Using a simulation kit, participants role-play the lives of low-income families and try to budget their resources to provide basic necessities and shelter over the course of four 15-minute "weeks." During the simulation, participants interact with mock human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers and others. "By helping participants experience what it's like to live in poverty, we're training them to better serve low-income individuals and families," Abbott said. "Sometimes, even when we work with low-income people frequently, it's easy to forget what is really important. The simulation helps participants think through the realities that they will be facing when they work with the public."
Students in FN 530 had the opportunity to experience a glimpse of life in poverty this month as they participated in the poverty simulation provided by Purdue Extension and several university volunteers. With many public health nutrition programs focusing on the "at-risk" population, it is important for students to be aware of the many challenges that people in poverty face everyday beyond nutrition. Students commented that "everyone, even high school students, should participate in the poverty simulation."
Initially, the poverty simulator was brought in to train staff in Extension and the Department of Consumer and Family Sciences. Abbott said it was so successful that she and her colleagues decided to offer the program to interested groups throughout the state and students studying consumer and family sciences. "With the economic downturn, poverty has received more attention, but it's important to understand that people live like this every single day," Abbott said. "The simulation gives participants a whole new understanding and way of thinking about, and dealing with, the impoverished."
For more information, or to schedule the seminar for a group or community, contact Abbott at (765) 496-2488, firstname.lastname@example.org.