Poverty Simulation helps illustrate what millions go through every day

By Payton Higgins

Live Healthy DeKalb County Food Security Council and the University of Illinois extension worked together to host a Poverty Simulation on Friday at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau Building. The simulation taught participants about the harsh realities that people in low-income situations have to face on a daily basis. The simulation hosted a large attendance and helped to teach those in participation an important lesson about the lives of the impoverished.


The simulation began by assigning each participant the identity of someone living in poverty and grouping them with their respective “families”. The goal of these families was to survive one simulated month with the real incomes and living situations of those below the poverty line. “The purpose of this simulation” is to give you a small taste of what life is like on an extremely limited income… You will be facing some of the many challenges that real low-income families face,” according to the Community Action Poverty Simulation Instructions. The execution of this simulation was effective and truly helped in the understanding of these challenges. 


In order to survive, the families worked together to secure their homes, buy food every week, pay for utilities and loans, purchase clothing and keep the children in school. Each simulated week lasted 15 minutes and was followed by a brief  “weekend” break. During the “week,” members of the family would use transportation tickets to visit stations. These stations ranged from social services and healthcare providers to pawnshops and homeless shelters. Utilizing these stations allowed families to accomplish the necessary tasks to get them through the month. For example, a family could apply for food stamps and financial support at the social services station before pawning off furniture at the pawnshop to pay their utility bills. 

By the end of the simulation, those in participation had faced many situations that people living in poverty face every day. The experience helped to teach that the millions of U.S. citizens who live with incomes below the poverty line deal with much more than is conceived by the public.