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Rising to the Challenge 

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At the end of March, I joined my 9-year-old daughter, Mira, in the Spectrum Youth & Family Services Student Sleep Out. The annual event, a spin-off of the nonprofit's adult Sleep Out, was started in 2014 to raise money and awareness about homelessness in the state. During the Sleep Out, we heard from speakers, including a young woman who had once been homeless and a local police officer. We ate "stone soup" for dinner made with kids' contributions. And we walked through town with signs urging people to help fight homelessness and support Spectrum.

After campfire discussions, our group — more than 50 strong — packed into sleeping bags and slept, shoulder to shoulder, on the town office building's hard floor. (Organizers decided to have kids sleep inside this year due to the wet, snowy ground and frigid temps.) As a community, we raised more than $10,000 to support Spectrum. It was an experience that will undoubtedly stick with Mira for a long time, and hopefully will make her a more compassionate and generous person. As for me? Well, in addition to a sore back, I felt tons of mom pride in Mira's enthusiasm for the experience, as well as gratitude to my fellow parents who made this event possible.

My own experience reminded me of contributor Erinn Simon's piece in this month's Money Issue. She took Hunger Free Vermont's 3SquaresVT Challenge, which meant feeding her family of five for a week with only $115 — the average amount families of the same size receive for food when they qualify for government assistance. The challenge was created to draw attention to what it's like to live on a strict food allowance. It's our hope that, in addition to giving our readers tips on eating well on a budget, Simon's piece will raise awareness of the fact that 17 percent of children in our state live in food-insecure homes.

Other money-related content in this issue includes an interview with a financial adviser about saving for college, an advice column about allowance, and — as we ease into the spring season — articles about growing salad shoots and building a greenhouse on the cheap.

Whether it's taking your own version of the 3Squares challenge or embarking on a new gardening project, we hope this month's issue will nudge you outside of your comfort zone and help you grow.


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