PJ students to take on $3 challenge to kick off food drive

Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School

SPARTA —What do Burger King’s Whopper, Starbucks’ venti iced coffee and a gallon of milk have in common?

In New Jersey, these three items cost $3 or more to buy.

Now, just imagine if you could only have $3 to spend for the entire day.  Which one of these items will you buy? Will you buy something else that is not as good as these three?

That’s the type of problem over 100 students at Pope John XXIII Regional High School will face Wednesday when they will participate in the $3 challenge. The event kicks off the school’s Thanksgiving food drive and the goal of it is to join those who often have to go without food.

“This challenge is different from the norm,” Pope John XXIII Regional High School senior Victoria Caruso said. “You don’t often think that some people are so very unfortunate and would only have to spend $3 or less. To put that in perspective, it’s really great to experience it and this will be beneficial to all of us to learn.”

“This is going to be tough, but we want people to learn and educate themselves about issues like this,” Pope John XXIII Regional High School senior Toni Ippolito said. “We want them to see that, ‘Wow! This is hard to do, and then ask how can we help (solve the problem)?’”

The idea for the challenge came up after Caruso, Ippolito, sophomore Sophia Felix, theology teacher Ms. Brigette Hanley and theology teacher Mr. Lee Imbriano attended a service trip in June to Camden. During the trip, they participated in the Romero Center’s “Urban Challenge” in which they had to pick food as a group to live on for one of the days they were down there.

Ippolito and Caruso said it was an incredibly eye-opening experience.

“We picked all stuff that I normally wouldn’t eat because I’m a vegan, but I ended up compromising with the group,” Ippolito said. “Doing the challenge made me realize how lucky I am to be able to eat the food I want and the way that I want it.”

“It was pretty hard,” Caruso said. “Every day, I have three meals plus snacks. So, it was hard to go throughout the day and then go to bed hungry. I’ve never really felt that before until that day.”

This experience was something that they wanted to have their fellow peers see and take part in as well. Ippollito, Felix and other students did a test challenge during school on Friday, as Ippolito had a box of cereal and bread while Felix had a box of cereal and two apples.

“They thought we were crazy,” Felix said. “They didn’t think it was possible because where we are from, buying only $3 worth of food is nearly impossible. ... It was really hard. I was not full.”

However, students jumped on board for the cause, and as some of them began to prepare for today’s challenge, they expressed how difficult it would be.

“This is going to be a rough day,” Pope John XXIII Regional High School senior Bianca Wargo said. “I’ve spent probably a solid 45 minutes in Stop & Shop trying to find something that would be $3 or less and would be enough for the day. And with the swimming season starting and me being sick (with a cold), it’s going to be hard. I can’t imagine trying to live on $3 a day.”

Wargo said she bought a six-pack of Ramen noodles for $2.49. She said she hopes to get a drink for the remaining $0.51, but is already starting to feel appreciative for what she has in her life and hopes others will either participate in the challenge and/or donate food for those less fortunate.

“I really think this is a good way for people to feel the hunger,” Wargo said. “I hope people realize how hard it is to try to live a healthy life. I am thankful that I can basically eat what I see and what I like. I hope people will realize that it is a good thing to donate food and that it is necessary for those in need.”

Caruso hopes this generous spirit can carry on past the holiday season and have it on peoples’ minds every day throughout the year.

“We want this to continue for a very long time,” Caruso said. “We want people to be aware and help as much as possible.”

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