Hunger Challenge Blog: Day 3

Reflections on Day 3: June 13, 2012

It’s Wednesday aka Hump Day and it’s been a struggle to get over this week’s mid week “hump”. It’s been especially hot this week and it really would have been nice to indulge in a popsicle or some frozen yogurt. Summer is definitely upon us which also means that school’s out! In yesterday’s blog, Assemblymember Yamada mentioned some school lunch programs that continued their meals throughout the summer. However, since kids are home more and are probably more active, they need some extra nutrition. Unfortunately, food banks see the lowest amount of donations during summer months, one of the times that they need it most! Learn more and locate your nearest food bank at the California Association of Food Banks website. Consider this when donating, meat provides a lot of nutrition, but is often not affordable for many people on CalFresh.

You don’t have a kitchen? California’s got you covered! Assemblymember Mariko Yamada clues us in on the CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program

Long day Tuesday, but made it home and prepared “corn cakes” with fresh banana, and made a meal out of more chicken and sliced cucumbers.

During Democratic Caucus yesterday noon, a colleague said he would have joined me but did not have access to a kitchen. I didn’t say anything to him, but want to note here that thousands of CalFresh recipients are in the same boat. That’s why the CalFresh Restaurant Meals program is so important: Although this program is open only to the homeless, elderly, and disabled (although those on SSI are not eligible for SNAP because the benefit amount is “cashed-out” in the monthly grant–we can argue about that another time!), it is another avenue for the hungry among us.

With the heat rising outside, I have been drinking only filtered tap water and coconut milk (which I confess is not a favorite but I put it in my grocery cart because I had a 75 cents off coupon). Wednesday is food ad day, so I will check the sales and see if I can afford a can of frozen orange juice with my $2.25 in reserve. Will attend Legislative Women’s Caucus “brown bag” luncheon with my real brown bag lunch of a tuna salad sandwich and grapes. The impending budget vote will affect women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor disproportionately…it saddens me to know that tobacco companies can spend $50M to defeat one ballot measure while millions of Californians are suffering daily from hunger pangs.

Cecilia contemplates the nutritional value of cheese powder

I’ve found myself eating a combination of things that I ordinarily wouldn’t consider eating. I’m not talking veggie overload or the good kind of “try new things” either. Today’s dinner consisted of hamburger helper, or pasta with a powder cheese mixture and ground turkey. I’m kind of sad I used my only meat product for this little mini-disaster.

Nutrient wise, I don’t think the cheese powder counted as dairy– I’m not really sure what food group it would fall into come to think of it. Taste-wise, it was kind of a processed, melty, salty concoction that I wouldn’t try again… except that I have to. Unfortunately, because I was banking on it being several servings that could last me a few meals, I will be scarfing it down for at least another 2 meals.

Another accident that I ran into was that the recipe called for some milk. Luckily, I had enough money left in my budget to get a very small carton of almost-expired milk. So I guess I did get some dairy in that meal after all. All in all, I’ve been noticing that the lack of nutrients in these meals have made me sluggish and tired when I’m not sluggish and tired from being hungry. Even when it’s filling, the lack of real health value leaves me low on energy.

Sondra, why are you on the Hunger Challenge?

day 1 dinner of porkchop, noodles, vegetables and parmesan

The other night I found myself at the Davis Beer Shoppe, celebrating a friend’s homecoming and birthday. Despite (or as a result of) being unable to purchase or accept drinks, the hunger challenge served as a fantastic conversation starter. We had some great discussions about our ideas of healthy lifestyles and the reality of maintaining one as well as our own experiences with food insecurity. We also discussed our own privileges as far as accessing healthy food and health education. Some of the discussion also centered around why I chose to participate in this challenge. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about, and it wasn’t until I talked to different folks that I was able to really clarify some of my thoughts.

Part of my reticence about the Hunger Challenge is my own knowledge of my own middle-class privilege as someone who never feared that I would be without food. It’s a scary thought, confronting your own privilege, and I know that living on $22 for just five days is hardly indicative of the struggle that many Californians go through week. I was concerned that this was just an exercise in “slumming” or poverty tourism. What can I really get out of doing this for a week? How will this produce meaningful results?

To be honest, I don’t have a concrete answer. But what I’ve learned over the past couple of days is that this challenge has served as a forum, a space in which my friends, family and coworkers can pull together their experiences, knowledge, opinions and thoughts about the issue of food insecurity and the health of our state. There are so many conversations I wouldn’t have had if it hadn’t been for this challenge and, even if I am not experiencing everything firsthand, I’ve heard so many stories and learned so much from everyone’s shared knowledge. This has also changed the way I view my meals and grocery shopping and the complex and varied relationships other people have with them. Before the challenge I knew some of these issues from articles I’ve read and some stories I’ve heard, but the constant state of not-quite-full that I’ve been in for the past few days has really driven this information home. I’m looking forward to the end of this challenge when at least I can return to my normal levels of access and consumption, but I know that for many this week IS normal and I hope that I can use this knowledge in the future to inform my work and the impact that I have on others.

day 2 dinner of salad with boiled egg, carrots, apples and canned mandarin orange syrup for dressing