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Computer Science Community Engagement Project - Poverty: SNAP store simulation

How can Computer Scientists help end poverty?


Computer Science students will be assigned to family units, and given the appropriate amount of funds for the families grocery bills. Students will then need to go grocery shopping with the aim of feeding the family NUTRITIOUSLY for the week. This event will have 3 phases: preparation, store trip, and group reflection. Each phase is described below.

Sing up to participate here (URL: 

As part of the signup, you will fill out what times work for you for phase I and II, which will be done together. Combined those parts should take about an hour and half. Once you have signed up, you will be contacted by a faculty member about who your group is.


Reserve the date: Thursday November 14 - Group Reflection - 6:30 - 7:30






In the preparation phase, you will review the SNAP website with your family unit. You will look at what your family needs, what SNAP will let you buy and make your grocery list. In addition to your SNAP budget you will have $20 that can be spent on anything - Like getting to the store. That's right, you are NOT ALLOWED TO USE CARS TO GET TO AND FROM THE STORE. Once you know what you need, you can plan your trip with your family unit. Then stop in to see your assigned professor. You show him/her your list and s/he will provide you with the funds.

Good Luck!

Store Trip

For this part of the activity, your family will sign up for a shopping trip time. At that time, you will travel to a store (or stores) of your choice, and try to fill your list of items. The goal is to make this trip feel as real as possible to what people here in Cincinnati living under the poverty line may experience. Therefore, you are not allowed to use your car or your friends car to get to or from the store. We recommend everyone in the family choose a role for the family and live up to it to the best of your abilities. So if you are a toddler, you don't help carry groceries, etc.

While at the store you are allowed to alter your list as you see prices on goods. You MUST spend your full SNAP credit. You may spend the additional funds. Don't forget to account for how you are getting all the items home (aka back to Hinkle Hall). Once you are back, you will take a group photo with all your groceries and your original list.  Then rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 (5 being best):

  • Did you get all the items on your list?
  • How nutritious are your meals?
  • Any ability to snack?
  • How is your family's hygiene going to be?

Give the paper with this rating to the professor.

Finally, donate your purchased items to the food store!

Group Reflection

Come to the Pizza party to celebrate this event and to see how other groups did.