Hunger Challenge Blog: Day 1

Reflections on Day 1: June 11, 2012

It’s about dinner time on Day 1 and a couple of us have already had to face the temptation of free food. One of the rules of the Hunger Challenge is not accepting free food since that is a luxury and probably does not happen very often for CalFresh/SNAP recipients. The following are some reflections from NAPAWF*Sac sisters so far:

The first post comes from our very own fierce sister in the State Assembly, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada.

This is the 5th year in a row that she’s participated in this challenge. It is crucial for our policy makers to understand how critical the benefit is for our low-income individuals and families and that cuts to programs like these would be detrimental. We’re so proud that Assemblymember Yamada is leading the charge among her Assembly colleagues in raising awareness around food insecurity. Assemblymember Yamada is blogging mainly at the Food Bank of Yolo County Blog. Here is a re-post of her blog (with permission from the Assemblymember):

Assemblymember Yamada Takes the Hunger Challenge for the 5th year in a Row

Today marks Day 1 of my 2012 Hunger Challenge, my fourth consecutive as a state legislator. Thanks to the few hardy souls who have joined me in living on a “food stamp budget” of $22.30 for the week. While we will end our food insecurity in five days, millions of Californians do not have that luxury.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not fare well under the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee’s 2012 Farm Bill mark-up. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has offered an amendment to restore the proposed cuts. The inevitable complications of an election year point to the final Farm Bill details to be worked out later this year, placing millions of hungry Americans and the farmers who feed America in the balance. The fight to protect SNAP can and must continue as we continue to make our way back through tough economic times.

Closer to home, this Friday, June 15, is the state budget deadline. I am calling it “Cut-Mageddon”. According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), over 19 percent of Californians are unable to afford enough food to eat. Despite this widespread hardship, the Governor’s 2012-13 budget calls for more than $2 billion in health and human services reductions. SNAP remains a 100% federal benefit–but federal reductions could devastate the California program, CalFresh.

Stay tuned.


Day 1 Reflections from NAPAWF*Sac Board Member, Sondra.

Sondra's Hunger Challenge Groceries - $19.59

I went shopping at the Midtown location of Grocery Outlet. Unfortunately, I was in a rush so I’m not sure how carefully I thought my groceries through. Anyway, I ended up spending $19.59 on these lovely items (image attached). I felt that my big splurge was the bag of apples, which came out to $3.99. However, it also means that I get to eat 2 apples a day (extra insurance to keep the doctor away)! I picked up thin-sliced porkchops (6) for $3.09. I’m hoping to prepare them in different ways throughout the week so I don’t get too sick of them. Considering I have $2.41 left to burn, I was going to bargain with my mom and buy some butter and olive oil off of her. I think my best deal was on the loaf of Texas toast. Grocery Outlet was selling them at 2 for $1! However, health-wise I probably should’ve spent my last couple of bucks on some whole wheat bread.

I went shopping with my mom, which proved to be both a positive and stressful experience. She steered me away from the ground turkey (citing questionable sanitary standards when it comes to ground meat) and also away from the gray-ish chicken breasts, which apparently means that their lifespan is just about up. However, I did feel a bit like she was micro-managing after she suggested multiple times that I pick up a jar of jam for my bread. Overall, it helped to have a second pair of eyes to scope out the deals and bounce meal ideas off of (once she stopped referring to this as “The Hunger Games”).

This morning I enjoyed a fried egg with a slice of buttered toast for breakfast. The bread is incredibly fluffy so I really have no regrets about passing up the whole wheat. I seasoned my egg with salt and pepper. I cooked up my lunch last night — linguini with parmesan cheese and steamed broccoli and carrots (also topped with parmesan cheese). I ate a lot of pasta and broccoli in college, so I figured this would be a good way to ease myself into the hunger challenge. I’ve attached an image of my lunch. I cooked up one broccoli head (of 2 that I bought) and one carrot and was able to split the veggies and the noodles into a couple containers. Tonight I’m planning on frying up one of the porkchops to go with my leftover pasta.

Sondra's lunch for Day 1: pasta with steamed carrots and broccoli sprinkled with parmesan cheese

While this hunger challenge has proved to be a bit of a lifestyle change, I’m not so far from my college years that I’ve forgotten how to subsist on quick, easy and cheap meals made at home. I will admit, since I started working this year I’ve gotten awfully lazy and less careful about how I spend my money. A normal day would involve me dragging myself out of bed at the last minute, buying a croissant for breakfast at the deli at work (about $1.50) and then buying a lunch somewhere nearby, usually priced just under $10. At that rate, I burn through the $22 budget in less than two days. I eat dinner at home regularly, but I also live with my parents. In college, I would often drag my feet when it came to making meals for one. For now, it seems to be working out but I’m only on day 1.

Musings from NAPAWF*Sac former board chair, Cat:

Cat's Hunger Challenge Groceries - $21.23

I went shopping at the Grocery Outlet in Davis. It was about 6PM on a Saturday and there were families, individual older adults and some students. Grocery Outlet and I are definitely not strangers. My mom frequently shopped at the one in Modesto for years when I was growing up. Most of the food has a quickly approaching expiration date which is why it’s so affordable. I worked at Safeway while I was in college and now I live right next to Nugget Market so I’ve grown accustomed to an abundant and flourishing produce section, but this was not the case at Grocery Outlet. It was a quarter of the size of the bigger supermarkets. I usually get a lot of fruit on my shopping excursions, especially in the summer, but this store didn’t have many options. Most of their fruit was sold in prepackaged bags instead of by piece which makes it more expensive for a single person. Made me regret not going to the Davis Farmer’s Market earlier that day. When I was in the check out, I had the moment where I nervously withheld the most expensive and the “luxury” item (drumsticks) until the end to see if I could afford it. I definitely kept a closer watch on the check out monitor to ensure everything was ringing up correctly.

I covet every single moment of sleep so I usually skip breakfast, but because this challenge doesn’t allow for skipped meals, I had to eat something in the morning. I decided to boil a few eggs as I got ready for work so that I can eat one on my way to work and then have some ready for the next couple mornings (yay for foresight!). I am usually rushing out the door for work so as I was doing my usual hurried morning routine, I almost forgot my lunch and started to think… What would happen if I actually did forget?! I would have to stay hungry all day. A new intern started in our office today and he was so sweet, he brought muffins and coffee! However, because of the Hunger Challenge, I couldn’t accept and neither could my co-worker who is also on the challenge. The result was a lot of left over coffee and muffins. Now our intern can see how seriously we take our work! Sondra also emailed later in the day to ask if she could indulge in some streudels her chief-of-staff brought in, I could feel her pain! Someone on the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano wrote that the Hunger Challenge is an “exercise in empathy”, such an accurate description. More musings to come!