Gas or groceries? Computer simulation weighs the options of living in poverty

food bank jordan newby in Norfolk.jpg
Posted at 2:02 PM, Apr 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 17:54:41-04

NORFOLK, Va. – With inflation, area food banks are reporting an increase in clients using their services.

To help employees and volunteers of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore truly understand what the recipients are dealing with on a daily basis, they participate in a financial simulation program.

That simulation, called “The Life in the State of Poverty" is conducted by the Virginia Cooperative Extension. It’s also given to city leaders, policymakers, and social workers to help them appreciate the struggles of those living in poverty. It can be given either face-to-face or virtually.

The program, which takes less than an hour, starts off with the participant choosing a job. Then it walks through a month of budgeting. The interactive program will ask questions dealing with topics such as childcare, rent, and car payments. It will throw in curveballs like the costs of an unexpected house repair. The goal is to help policymakers, employers, and others understand the barriers that many people deal with day-to-day.

Karen Munden, the coordinator with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, said they also conduct a financial simulation with high school students in Virginia Beach to help them gain a better financial understanding of living on their own.

Munden said that often with executives who take the simulation training, it's eye-opening.

"'I did not realize that $20 only goes so far. I didn’t realize the barriers, the stress that some of my employees are having,'" Munden described participants' responses.

If you are interested in arranging for a group to participate in this training, you can e-mail Karen Munden at: