United Way’s “Making Choices Candy Game” shows real-world challenges facing families

Published 1:50 pm Tuesday, January 21, 2020

We all make choices about how to invest our resources.

Many times, those decisions are based on our priorities and our values in life. Some may start by tithing 10 percent of their earnings to the church. Others may invest more heavily in education, or life’s necessities like food and adequate healthcare. Some may skirt on items normally considered necessities in exchange for luxury items like additional shopping options, fancy transportation and vacations.

Through the Leadership Vicksburg program, I had the opportunity last week to visit the United Way of West Central Mississippi office and explore this topic further.

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We heard from Executive Director Michelle Connelly who took us through the “Making Choices Candy Game.” The game, which is played with a pack of 15 Smarties, provided some insight into the difficult choices people and families have to make in regard to investing their resources.

We started first with all 15 smarties, which act as money in the game, and had to allocate them between seven categories: housing, healthcare, food, transportation, technology, child care and shopping. Each category had three options that ranged from being very adequate, like everyone in your four-person family eating three meals per day, owning a cell phone and computer, and living in a two bedroom house, to less than desirable, like not having any health insurance, any form of transportation other than walking or biking and no mall or shopping center within 20 miles.

It was relatively easy to make choices about where to invest resources with 15 smarties. Sure, you couldn’t have everything you wanted, but it was plenty of candy to pay for what you needed, plus a couple of “luxury” items in regard to technology and shopping experiences.

Then, Connelly said, “life happened.” The scenario? Your spouse lost his or her job and suddenly the 15 smarties turned into 13. How will you invest your resources now?

It was interesting to see how others in our group invested their candy. Would you rather have insurance for your family of four, or ensure everyone has three meals per day? What long term consequences could your child face if you chose health insurance over food and they go to school hungry and are unable to concentrate on what the teacher is covering that day?

What if the family chose health insurance and three meals per day over having a cell or home phone? If they also do not own a computer, could that hinder one or both of the parents from applying to jobs or being able to contact their employer to report an absence from work or the need to change a work schedule?

United Way’s Director of Resource Development Heidi Burrell made a great point. Many times, people will discount a person or a family’s need if they see that they own a smart phone. To some, it is a sign of wealth or at least having enough resources to get by. That, in many situations, is not the case, however, as cell phones have come to represent a “life line” to the world as we move more and more toward a digital society.

Some of the questions posed above may seem silly or like no-brainers, but the reality is these are real life questions that real families are having to answer right here in Warren County.

I left the United Way that day thankful that I experienced those scenarios hypothetically as opposed to in real life, and so appreciative for those who work at our local United Way office. Their work to support those in need and help them work through tough financial situations goes many yards in making our community a better place for all who live here.

About Catherine Hadaway

Catherine Hadaway, as The Vicksburg Post’s publisher, oversees the business operations of the newspaper. She is a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala. and is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis where she earned bachelor’s degrees in Business and Religion. She is a Director of Boone Newsmedia, Inc., the family company that owns The Post. Catherine comes from a long line of newspaper publishers, starting with her grandfather, Buford Boone, who served as publisher of The Tuscaloosa News and earned journalism's highest honor when he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for his editorial titled "What a Price for Peace." Catherine is a member of The Rotary Club of Vicksburg, Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg, The Heritage Guild, The Sampler Antique Club and The Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Executive Committee.

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