Community Action Poverty Simulation FAQ

participants at a 2008 poverty simulation

Our society suffers from a lack of understanding and empathy concerning the realities of poverty. Just Harvest works with other organizations, government bodies, and companies to conduct poverty simulations that help illuminate these realities and debunk the many stereotypes about “the poor”.

What is a poverty simulation?

A poverty simulation is an experience designed to help participants understand what it is like to live in a typical low-income family trying to make ends meet from month to month. It is important to keep in mind that it is a simulation and not a game! The main objective of the simulation is to sensitize the participants to the realities that low-income people face. Just Harvest uses the Missouri Community Action Association Poverty Simulation Kit to facilitate the simulation.

What is the purpose of the poverty simulation?

The purpose of the poverty simulation is to educate the broader community, especially our elected officials about the real issues that low-income families deal, the roadblocks that can be barriers to self-sufficiency and how those roadblocks manifest in behaviors and beliefs. It is our hope that those that participate in the experience will be motivated to become involved in activities which reduce poverty in our community – this includes advocating for a secure hunger and poverty social safety net.

How many people can participate in the poverty simulation?

44 to 80 people can participate as the actual families. There are 26 different families facing poverty in the simulation. Some of the families are newly unemployed, recently deserted by the breadwinner, homeless, and others are on TANF (cash assistance) either with or without additional income.

An additional 20 can participate as the community resources that provide services to the families.

The simulation needs to be conducted in a large room in which the families are seated in the center of the room with the community resources around the perimeter.

How long is the simulation?

The experience lasts 2.5 – 3 hours. It includes a brief introduction and briefing of the simulation exercise and a debriefing period after the exercise in which the participants and volunteer staffers share their feelings and experiences. Talking about what they have learned about people living in poverty is an important part of the experience.

How do I go about setting up a poverty simulation for my organization or group?

There are a number of logistics to nail down in order to carry out a poverty simulation so we suggest starting the planning process at least two months in advance. Generally your organization or group is responsible for recruiting the participants but Just Harvest can assist with this. Just Harvest can also provide volunteer staff for the community resources if needed. It is suggested that the community resources be staffed by individuals who have had experience with poverty and that a small stipend be given for their participation.

What is the cost?

The primary costs consist of the staff time required in organizing and running the simulation, and obtaining a sufficiently large space. In addition, Just Harvest charges a small fee for our assistance. This will be discussed in more detail when you contact us.

orange arrowAny questions? Ready to proceed? Contact Ann Sanders at or 412-431-8960 x109 for more information.
orange arrowDon’t have the capacity for a poverty simulation but want info on how to address hunger and poverty in your community? We can provide your organization or event with a speaker. Contact Emily Cleath at or 412-431-8960 x112 to arrange.