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Archive for September, 2011

The Different Faces of Hunger

Every day I am more and more surprised by how many people need our help.  Every month the Food Bank helps feed 132,000 people, an immense number by any standards. Who is the face of hunger and what brings each one of our clients to our distributions? When looking at the statistics I was shocked to see that 28% of the clients the Food Bank serves are children. If one parent loses their job this not only affects them but their children and others in the household. While school-aged children often receive lunch at school many times this is their only meal of the day. Talk to teachers and you will find out that they all have at least one student who goes home to an empty dinner table.

Another staggering statistic is how many seniors are in need of food assistance.  As Social Security benefits continue to be cut, many low income seniors are being asked to live on less and less. Meanwhile, prices of housing, food, and utilities keep rising.  For many seniors, a nutritious balanced meal is a luxury.

To serve these populations, the Food Bank has different programs. The Farm 2 Kids program provides produce on a weekly basis to nearly 9,000 children who then take the fruits and vegetables home to their families. For younger children ages 4-5 there is the Food For Children program which provides a monthly box of nutritious, kid-friendly food as well as a bag of perishable items. Low income seniors on a tight budget can join the Senior Food Program and receive a bag of canned and fresh items twice a month.

With the generous help of our supporters, the Food Bank is able to not only help people in need, but to target the special populations who need it most. As you take action this Hunger Action Month, keep in mind the many different individuals you are helping in so many different ways.

Food Bank Ambassadors

The Ambassadors are a unique kind of volunteer at the Food Bank. They serve as a public face for us to local businesses, community organizations, social clubs, and at events as well as being an advocate for the Food Bank’s programs and services.

Food Bank Ambassador Linda Elsdon tabling at Fentons in Vacaville

On this one-year anniversary of the Food Bank Ambassador program, we think back to the many events our Ambassadors have joyfully attended on our behalf such as the Wells Fargo Annual Volunteer Fair, National Train Day in Martinez, Richmond’s Music on the Main, Celebrate Everyday Heroes Golf Tournament in Orinda, Music in the Park at Suisun City Library, “Healthy Sunday” in Pittsburg, Winterhawk Winery in Suisun and they will attend the upcoming Kaiser Richmond Employee Wellness Fair and the Loma Vista Farm Harvest Festival.

Some of these volunteers have bilingual skills to help us reach more of our Spanish-speaking donors and clients, but we hope to increase that number, especially in West and East Contra Costa County.

Thanks to our Ambassadors, the Food Bank is able to increase our outreach at schools, business fairs, and other community events every year. To learn more about our ambassador program, please contact Patty at pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org or (925) 676-7543 extension 243.

The Capitol Goes Orange for Hunger Awareness

Anti-hunger advocates from across the state, Food Bank staff, the offices of Assemblymembers Yamada, Fuentes, Weickowski and Mitchell, and others participated in “The Capitol Goes Orange for Hunger Awareness” day on Wednesday in Sacramento.

The participants wore orange – the official color of hunger awareness – to bring attention to hunger issues across the state and highlight anti-hunger bills currently before the Governor (AB 6, AB 69, AB 152, AB402, AB581, and SB 43). Visit our state advocacy page and learn more about the bills mentioned above and how you can take action.

hunger aciton group

Capitol Goes Orange

Let’s go orange for Hunger Action Month!  Join anti-hunger advocates from across the state, Food Bank staff, the offices of Assemblymembers Yamada, Fuentes, Beall, Skinner and others to participate in “The Capitol Goes Orange for Hunger Awareness”  day TODAY (Wednesday, September 21st) in Sacramento.  They are asking that staff members wear orange – the official color of hunger awareness – to bring attention to hunger issues across the state and highlight anti-hunger bills currently before the Governor (AB 6, AB 69, AB 152, AB402, AB581, and SB 43).  There will be a Capitol Community photo op at 12:15p.m. on the West Steps of the State Capitol.  We ask that you also please bring a canned food donation with you to the photo-shoot.

Learn more about the bills mentioned above on the California Association of Food Banks website.

capitol orange flyer

More than Just Books

Libraries are a very important part of our community! They help us educate our children and ourselves. Several of our libraries also help collect food for those in need by hosting a barrel from the Food Bank.

We welcome our newest member of our ongoing food drives: The Hercules Library at 109 Civic Drive in Hercules. They now have a barrel just ready for food donations and they are committed to filling it throughout the year. The Pittsburg Library is going to host a barrel over the holidays so if things go well, they may keep it year round too. The library that has had a barrel the longest is the Richmond Public Library (325 Civic Center Plaza) which has had a barrel since 2008 and has collected over 2,000 pounds of much needed food. For Solano County, there are barrels in the Fairfield Cordelia Library, the Fairfield Civic Center Library and the Suisun City Library.

The next time you visit one of these libraries don’t forget to bring a few nonperishable items for those in need in your community. While you are at the library you can take our Hunger Action Month action to educate by reading a book about hunger to a young child. We recommend The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need, Sam and the Lucky Money and the DVD The Pursuit of Happyness. You can even reserve your books online and have them sent to a library with one of our Food Bank barrels.

A big thank you to our wonderful libraries across our 2 counties!

For more on Hunger Action Month visit the official page.

Hunger Challenge: Final Thoughts

Staff and volunteers at the Food Bank took the Hunger Challenge Sept 12-16 as part of Hunger Action Month to bring awareness to the issue of hunger in the community. They tried to live on a food budget of $4.72 per day, the average amount a person receives in CalFresh (Food Stamp) benefits.

Read the final thoughts about the Hunger Challenge and experiences of the participants:

Aaron Yuen, Volunteer: Since my budget for Day 5 was $2.60.  I had to be creative. For breakfast, I decided to load up on good carbs. I mixed 1.5 cups of uncooked oatmeal, 6 pieces of walnuts, 1/3 scoop of protein powder and 4 oz of soy milk. That kept me full in the morning. For lunch, I made 2 cups of penne pasta, chopped up 1 slice of turkey, some green onion and toss them in ranch dressing.

For dinner, I made an omelette with 2 eggs and 1 slice of turkey and 6 oz of broccoli. The total cost of food was $2.60. Yes, I made it.  At 6:30pm. I declared that the challenge was over. At 7:30pm, I was spotted at Melo’s picking up a large combo.
That was what Jason wanted for dinner before heading back to college on Saturday. Since the challenge was over, I helped myself to 2 slices. Pizza never tasted this good!

Joan Tomasini, Food Drive Coordinator: Five days of eating less than I normally would is over and I am glad I participated this year. I definitely plan to do it again next year as it does increase my awareness of those in need in our community. I was also very fortunate that the day after finishing the challenge, I participated in our Vallejo food distribution. We handed out bags of groceries to over 340 people! The potatoes, plums, and cabbage were beautiful. My job was to add the 2 bread products and then place the ready bags on the tables for distribution to the recipients. They also received a bag of canned foods. The recipients all said thank you and were very happy to have us handing out food.

Here are my thoughts concluding the 5 days: I wish we didn’t have to eat on $4.72 per day. I wish we didn’t have to hand out food to people in need. I wish people were not hungry. BUT, I am thankful for my job at the Food Bank and that I can help people in need and be more aware of what it is like (even though I can’t imagine what it must be like for more than 5 days). I am thankful that those that receive food have recognized that it is okay to ask people for help. I am thankful that the people of Contra Costa and Solano counties believe in helping our community through food and monetary donations and through volunteering. I am thankful that the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano exists and thrives. Together we are working to end hunger – I will be truly thankful when that day arrives!

Veronica Wimer, Purchasing Manager: Well… somehow I came across pizza yesterday (free of course) and it made its way into my belly, so I failed this challenge. But today’s lunch was a little more plentiful with the macaroni noodles that were supposed to be last night’s dinner. I’m pretty much out of food, tonight’s dinner will be and egg salad sandwich with the rest of my cheese (I still can’t believe that I ate a whole pound of cheese in 5 days) an apple and the rest of my granola ( about ¼ C)
I definitely did a much better job at obtaining a variety of foods than I did last year, thanks to harvest house where I was able to buy exactly what I need from the bulk bins. This year I didn’t have to buy too much cheap food because I decided to just eat less.

I’ll most likely repeat this menu again for next year’s challenge. $4.72 is doable for me (a small female) but I’m not sure it would be enough for most people, I had a little more variety than last year but I totally failed this challenge because I ate more than my allowance with the free pizza I came across Thursday night. This challenged opened my eyes to a few new culinary surprises, tuna with wheat berries, pintos cooked in vegetable broth, water and onions and macaroni with just butter (isn’t so bad). Also, bulk tea lasts a lot longer than prepackaged, it’s freshness and potency allowed me to reuse.

Rachel Braver, Visual Communications Coordinator: Empathy has never been a problem for me, but taking the Hunger Challenge gave me a much higher level of understanding what it would be like as a member of the working poor trying to get through a week (let alone months or years) on a CalFresh food budget.

We came in under budget, because there are still portions of our food left from the shop we did last week, but the initial shop had us right at the budget. Since you can’t buy half a container of almond milk to ensure money is left over, items had to be very carefully selected.

There were some “cheats” like leftovers in the fridge and sparkling water we already had on hand (those would add $0.89 each to the budget) and a little flax meal on the oatmeal ($2.99/bag).

Some lessons learned:
The amount of planning required to make sure you have enough until your benefits refresh is not always doable. If you forgot to soak and cook your beans, you can’t eat them raw. If I didn’t have a flexible work schedule, I would have been fired for being late twice for prepping my meals. I spent so much time thinking about food, grocery prices, meal prep, ingredients that combine well and have enough fiber and protein, hunger, my next meal or snack, how much was left for the week it didn’t leave room for much else.
A restriction most of us are familiar with is dieting. You may restrict portion size or snacking because you choose to, but it’s a whole different feeling to be measuring out portions to make sure there is enough food to get through the week.
Variety is out. You want a snack? We have what’s on the list. Oatmeal again? Better than going hungry.
Being put into survival mode around food takes a mental toll that severely limits abundant thinking.
Have sympathy on cranky, distracted people. They maybe be working hard and still going hungry.

Lauren Strouse, Office Assistant: So – today is the last day of the challenge. I added up expenses this morning and barring any unforeseen cheats today, we came in under budget at $43.96 (we were allowed $47.20 for two of us). I figure we would have still been within the budget even if I had purchased tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and radishes – which all came out of our garden. Besides the Grocery Outlet, Larry’s Produce usually has in- season veggies really cheap. I was confident in the beginning that I could feed us on the budgeted amount because I have done so in the past. I’ve been unemployed four times over the last 10 years,  on medical disability for four months, and Steve was on disability for eight; when those things occur, you usually buy food with whatever is leftover after paying everything else. The challenge for me this week was making sure we ate a healthy diet and that our meals were varied and interesting.  Having a garden and a variety of produce stands close by helped. Having transportation and the option of shopping several different stores including someplace like the Grocery Outlet, also contributed to making it easier to stay within budget and eat well. Most certainly, everyone doesn’t have these options.

We definitely did not go hungry this week. We had plenty of fresh produce and I felt we ate a healthy diet. I did miss my “Bob’s Red Mill 8 Grain Cereal.” I probably could have budgeted for it, but felt it wasn’t really fair to devote our food dollars to something only I would eat; granted Steve had Fritos, but they were available for both us. I also missed my Cascade yogurt and having nuts for a snack (I try to eat a small handful every day), but didn’t have time to shop for the best bargain on raw almonds as well as take the time to roast them.  I definitely had to plan more carefully and felt somewhat limited in terms of choices because I was committed to the planned menu. I also normally try and use a wider variety of grains like quinoa and barley, but felt it was easier to just use brown rice this week; it was cheap and available at the location I did most of my shopping.

As for our final meals -the spinach-chicken wraps we had for dinner last night were pretty tasty, the cabbage slaw was excellent and should be even better tonight because the cilantro and jalapeno will have imparted more flavor. This morning before work I cooked the brown rice I need for making the stuffing for zucchini for dinner tonight (I could have cooked it last night, but was feeling lazy) – 1 cup rice, 15oz. can of diced tomatoes, vegetable bouillon, little cumin, dry oregano and a dash of Cajun seasoning (and water of course).  To this I’ll add diced carrot, yellow onion, celery, green chiles, cilantro, sliced green onion, and a can of black beans. After it bakes we’ll top with a little co-jack cheese.  Besides the veggies from the garden and lemons from our tree, there are, of course, things not figured into the budget that I used in small amounts this week: olive oil, canola oil, mayo, mustard, spices, salt & pepper, couple bouillon cubes, Ranch dressing we had on hand (which I bought on sale in the refrigerated part of the produce section at Raleys with a $1 off coupon. I like it because it contains fewer unrecognizable ingredients and no high fructose corn syrup).  It has been an interesting week and quite frankly – I am ready for a night out!

Learn more about the challenge and Hunger Action month: /events/hunger-action-month/hunger-challenge.html.

Hunger Challenge: Sticking to the Plan

Staff and volunteers at the Food Bank are taking the Hunger Challenge Sept 12-16 as part of Hunger Action Month to bring awareness to the issue of hunger in the community. They are living for the week on a food budget of $4.72 per day, the average amount a person receives in CalFresh (Food Stamp) benefits. It’s not too late to take part. Learn more: /events/hunger-action-month/hunger-challenge.html.

Read the experiences of the participants:

Aaron Yuen, Volunteer:I blew my budget on Day 3. In order to redeem myself, my budget on Day 4 is $2.70. My strategy is to hit the pantry for inexpensive food. For breakfast, I ate 1/2 cup of granola and drank 2 glasses of water.  Water is free, right? I was full at first. At about 9:00am, I was starved. I kept myself busy to ignore the hunger For lunch, I made a sandwich with 2 slices of turkey, 1/5 of a loaf of baguette and mayo. I decided to go without tomatoes and lettuce due to budgetary reasons By 3:30pm, I was absolutely starved. I drank more water. For Dinner, I opened a can of New England Clam Chowder that we bought from Winco awhile back. I remember it was on sale for $1.38.  I added some corn starch and water  to thicken the chowder and made 3 cups out of it. It is gonna be a long night since I ate dinner at 6pm. I sort of made it. The cost of food on Day 4 came to $2.74. That means I have $2.65 left for Day 5. I am gonna have to be creative tomorrow.

Joan Tomasini, Food Drive Coordinator: Well it is almost the end of day four and as I was driving and thinking, I realized that last year I was hungrier than I am this year but this year I am definitely grumpier. I still have the same amount of work to do as I would any day but with less food to keep me energized, I am responding in grumpy ways to my poor co-workers. Health wise, I made better food choices and they are filling me up at night but I guess the satisfaction isn’t all there especially by day 4. This morning when I looked at the banana I planned on taking for lunch, I said no way, and left it at home. I still had my yogurt and string cheese (next year I would love to spend all of my money on string cheese – not healthy but I don’t think I would be as grumpy).  For dinner it is a  big glass of milk, two slices of wheat bread , a large salad and tomatoes and licking the bowl from the tasty salad dressing. Dessert is a glass of OJ – that to me is a treat. (And perhaps another cheese stick)…

Lauren Strouse, Office Assistant: The biggest challenge for me this week has been sticking to the planned menu. My weekly menus are not usually a plan set in stone; my mood changes and I often wind up cooking something else. I also like variety. Wednesday night I really wanted to try out a new recipe for salmon cakes. I have a nice fillet in the freezer, but it was $7.99 a pound when I purchased it. While I may have been able to fit this into the budget it would have required adjusting the menu for today and Friday. The tuna casserole I made was good, but this is a dish I usually only make once or twice a year and during the winter; it also required  taking time to cook the pasta in the morning before work to speed up prep time in the evening, so it took more planning. (Thankfully, Steve is also very good about helping with prep work, cooking, and cleanup, so I have not had to do everything myself) Then there’s the chicken I roasted on Monday; it was over 5lbs. I decided for simplicities sake in working with the budget to try and utilize most of it this week rather than freezing a portion of it to use it at a later date. I also recognize the average CalFresh recipient may not have a freezer and would therefore have to use an entire chicken or larger cut of meat over a week’s time. The challenge then becomes finding ways to create a “new,” dish so meals stay interesting. To that end, tonight we will have spinach-chicken wraps for dinner with a cabbage slaw. I got a good buy on the tortilla wraps at Grocery Outlet and can use other ingredients I purchased for meals this week (co-jack cheese, black olives, New Mexican chile peppers, romaine lettuce) as well as tomatoes from the garden. The cabbage slaw (shredded cabbage mix, jalapeno, cilantro, canned pineapple & home-made lime juice based dressing) will also be served Friday night when I make a vegetarian stuffed zucchini using the remainder of the 16oz. package of brown rice I purchased. (I ate the remainder of leftover brown rice pilaf from Monday dinner for breakfast this morning).  We will still have leftover chicken, however, which provides options for lunch (and breakfast) on Friday: chicken salad sandwiches or wraps, potato frittata, or tuna casserole?

Heidi Kleiner, AmeriCorps VISTA: I’m definitely learning things through this week of being more strict on my spending habits that I will use when the challenge is over.  My own CalFresh (food stamp) allotment is actually lower than what we’ve been using for the challenge so I could benefit from some of these practices anyway, even though I already do a lot to make sure I don’t go (too) over budget.  Luckily, I already try to be healthy anyway and it’s not such a change to eat and shop for things that work more efficiently for my body.  Even though the less expensive, packaged foods are usually cheaper for more food (cost per calorie), it does seem to be possible to eat pretty healthy foods if I am willing to cut out the unhealthy, packaged foods and snacks almost completely.

It would be a much different challenge if I had kids and a family.  Living on a limited food budget would be much more difficult with people with different tastes and desires for some of the food that I am more easily able to discipline myself into not eating, not to mention more mouths to feed and likely less money to do so.

I have learned, by charting out online the nutritional value of what I’ve been eating, that I bought and have been eating too much rice.  With my stir fry, I ended up feeling tired afterwards because I added a lot of rice in an attempt to fill me up…but when looking at the carbs I’ve been eating, I actually get enough carbs just from the fruits and vegetables and maybe a small amount of grains a day.  For my particular dietary needs and habits, I could greatly reduce the amount of grains I buy and use that money to buy some more protein, which I also need more of.  Something I did do well for my plan this week however, was to make sure I got the right amount of fiber.  When I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, I don’t need to buy expensive, fiber-added foods that seem to be popular at the moment.  The problem with buying a lot of produce, however, is that it can go bad quickly, and that’s wasted money (one of my peppers for this week went bad before I could eat it).

I was REALLY hungry when I got home from work today and it was farmers’ market day so I went down with my extra ten dollars to see what I could get.  I ended up just getting 2 heirloom tomatoes for 4 dollars.  If I had spent less money on grains and beans initially (I bought way too many beans), I would have had enough money to buy some more produce at the market.  I then went to Safeway and bought the milk and cereal I was craving.  While I went with the cereal that was the cheapest, it wasn’t the best deal, as the quantity was less for the price.  It definitely saves money in the long run to buy things in bulk, but sometimes people don’t have that much money to spend at once, especially when living paycheck to paycheck or when they are getting close to the end of their CalFresh benefits for the month before the next allotment is added.

There was free pizza in the conference room today.  That was rough.  As someone who really doesn’t have much money to spend on food, I normally take advantage of all free food options I encounter- but I wanted to be true to the goals of the challenge, since many people struggling to feed themselves, even when employed, likely don’t have much access to free food where they work.

United Way Week of Caring

The Food Bank is again proud to be participating in United Way Week of Caring coordinated by the Volunteer Center of the East Bay. This is the 20th Week of Caring and this year 94 nonprofits are participating and receiving volunteer help from 2,700 corporate volunteers to complete 264 projects.

At the Food Bank we were grateful to have Chevron, Eisai Inc., Matson Navigation and Wells Fargo Volunteers help with 7 projects over four days. Chevron volunteers worked at our Rodeo Food Assistance Program site helping to provide groceries for about 300 families totaling over 900 people. Wells Fargo and Matson teams came together to sort and box thousands of pounds of food at our Concord warehouse on Tuesday.

On Wednesday two Wells Fargo teams arrived and worked together and on Thursday a team from Chevron who have helped  for 3 years tackled  bins of fresh plums all afternoon. On Friday Eisai Inc. sorted and boxed food drive in our Fairfield warehouse all morning. It has been an amazing week.

We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to show volunteers what the Food Bank does in our community and to have the help of all of these amazing volunteers.

Chevron Volunteers

Wells Fargo Volunteers

 

Hunger Challenge: No room for take out

Staff and volunteers at the Food Bank are taking the Hunger Challenge Sept 12-16 as part of Hunger Action Month to bring awareness to the issue of hunger in the community. They are living for the week on a food budget of $4.72 per day, the average amount a person receives in CalFresh (Food Stamp) benefits. It’s not too late to take part. Learn more: /events/hunger-action-month/hunger-challenge.html.

Read the experiences of the participants thus far.

Aaron Yuen, Volunteer: Here’s day 3. I blew my budget.  I spent $9.14 today. I now have $5.39 left for the next 2 days. My son Jason is going back to college on Saturday.  He wanted to do dim sum lunch today. How could I possibly say no to that? For as hard as I tried to just admire those shrimp dumplings from afar, I totally blew my budget today. By my own fair calculation, my share was about $7.  Usually, it would have been more like $20. I now have $5.39 left for the next 2 days. I bought a sack of potatoes and some fish scraps from 99 Ranch today. I will eat like the best candidate for a Jenny Craig commercial for the next 2 days to stay on budget…If I manage to stay within budget. On Saturday, I swear I will eat everything in sight.  Thursday and Friday will be the true test of my will. I will prevail………….
I didn’t account for the cost of the sack of potato and fish scraps yet. I will prorate the cost as I consume the food. If $4.72 is all I had for each day, I might not have the luxury to buy extra and prorate as I go along.  Surviving on $4.72 a day is doable as a challenge. Sustaining in the long run on such a budget is a different story.

Lauren Strouse, Office Assistant: Dinner Tuesday night was easy and tasty: a salad of romaine lettuce ($.58 a head at FoodMaxx), heirloom tomatoes, radishes, and lemon cucumbers from our garden and avocado (4 tiny ones for $1 from Larry’s Produce) with Ranch dressing we already had on hand; and a potato frittata made from frozen country style hash-browns ($2.49 for 32 oz. pkg., Safeway), eggs ($1.69 a dozen, Grocery Outlet), green onions (3 bunches for $1 at Larry’s)and approximately 6oz. of grated co-jack cheese ($5.99 for 2lbs, Grocery Outlet). I like to douse mine with a little hot sauce, which we always have in the fridge. There were eight servings in the frittata so there were leftovers for lunch today, as well as enough for breakfast Thursday or Friday.

Dinner tonight will be tuna casserole accompanied by steamed broccoli crowns ($.99lb, Raleys) and sliced tomatoes (from the garden). I like to throw a bit of steamed carrot ($1 for 1lb, Grocery Outlet)into the casserole as well as celery ($.99 a bunch, Grocery Outlet), onion (3 yellow for $1, Grocery Outlet), peas (frozen 16 oz., Grocery Outlet for $.88), and sometimes sliced black olives (15 oz. can at Grocery Outlet for $.79). No potato chips for the top, however, but I might make bread crumbs since I do have bread or I could use some of the co-jack cheese I have. The tuna ($.99 for 6 oz. can); rottelle pasta ($.79 for 16oz. pkg.); and cream of mushroom soup ($.79 per can) were all from Grocery Outlet. We will be having some company joining us for dinner tonight, but I still expect enough left overs to cover lunch on Thursday. Mid-week and so far so good; we are not going hungry and I am actually enjoying this challenge! (Except it does mean preparing dinner EVERY night – no take out.)

Veronica Wimer, Purchasing Manager (second year taking the challenge): Thank goodness for tea, it really helps keep hunger at bay. I don’t think I have ever eaten a whole pound of cheese in a week before in my life but this week this is my new reality. Here is my menu for Wednesday nothing too exciting , same ole stuff but still love the pressure cooker. I cooked barley in 8 minutes last night !!! I’ve been rationing my portions conservatively so I think that tomorrow is going to be a FEAST! I still have macaroni, pintos, some barley, eggplant and an apple. Tonight I’ll finish off my granola 2 eggs, bread and cheese.

Breakfast
Mocha Surprise Tea with
¼ C Rice milk
½ C granola
Lunch
3 oz tuna
2 slices of bread
2 oz cheese
Dinner
1 sm eggplant
1 C cooked Barley
1 piece of toast
2 tbs PB
½ banana
Snacks
PM -1 med fuji apple
2 tbs PB

Hunger Challenge: Not a lot of variety

Staff and volunteers at the Food Bank are taking the Hunger Challenge Sept 12-16 as part of Hunger Action Month to bring awareness to the issue of hunger in the community. They will be living for the week on a food budget of $4.72 per day, the average amount a person receives in CalFresh (Food Stamp) benefits. It’s not too late to take part. Learn more: /events/hunger-action-month/hunger-challenge.html.

Read the experiences of the participants thus far.

Aaron Yuen, Volunteer: I came in 36 cents under-budget on Day 2, not bad for 1850 calories of food. This is actually kind of fun. I believe I am having some decent food for the money and eating healthy. I cooked enough brown rice on Day 1 to last for 3 days. I will have one more meal of brown rice on Day 3, and perhaps some soup and a sandwich too.

I have been eating uncooked old fashion oat meal for breakfast for years.  My recipe is oatmeal, walnuts, protein powder and soy milk all mixed together. It only cost 76 cents. It is as balanced as it comes with good carbs, fibre, omega 3 fats, and protein.  It tastes great too.

Caitlin Sly, Farm 2 Kids Coordinator (second year taking the challenge): So, I am ashamed to say that I failed the Hunger Challenge. Yesterday I began to feel like I was coming down with something. My nose is stuffy and my throat hurts. I decided as much as I wanted to succeed, I needed some orange juice, hot tea, and to eat healthy. So I cheated — but what a luxury to be able to cheat. If this were reality for me orange juice ($3.49) and tea ($7.00 /box) would have broken the bank.  What do CalFresh recipients do if they get sick? Are they able to care for themselves the way that I am able to? And although it does not “count” for the Challenge I began to think about the costs of the medicines I bought. There is no way I would be able to afford Day Quill ($7.51) on such a limited budget. Not to mention that I had the luxury of health care (thanks to working at the Food Bank) and was able to call an advice nurse. Last year I learned that the Challenge can be done but it involves a lot of monotony and uninteresting food. This year I learned that is only true as long as you are healthy.

Lauren Strouse, Office Assistant: Breakfast for the entire week is a variation on a theme: toast with peanut butter and a side of fresh fruit; yogurt and fruit (mostly Steve); toast, a hard-boiled egg and fruit; or just egg and fruit. A loaf of Steve’s favorite bread (Oroweat Honey Wheat Berry) at the Oroweat bread store, was $2.09 and has 20 slices ($.11 per slice) – more than enough for a piece of toast each day and sandwiches besides. A jar of Laura Scudder’s Natural Peanut Butter at the Grocery Outlet was $2.49; it has 14 servings at 2TB each, but we only use 1TB on toast because the slices of bread are very small so it’s only $.09 per TB. I purchased a lot of fruit at the Grocery Outlet: 1lb of strawberries for $1.99; cantaloupe at $.99 each; bananas at $1.99 for 3lbs or $.20 each. Raleys had grapes for $.99lb; and we bought peaches at Larry’s Produce 3lbs for $1 ($.25 each). I prepped everything on Sunday except the bananas and peaches so it is just grab and go. I like to make small fruit salads so I get a combination of the fruit. Yogurt was also from the Grocery Outlet – 3 cartons for Steve (all the same flavor) and 3 for me (plain Greek) at $2 for all six ($.33 each); jumbo brown organic eggs were only $1.69 a dozen so I bought those there as well.  The only change this week for Steve has been a lack of choice in yogurt flavors; for me it has meant no high fiber cereal so I am hungry again by 10am, however, I also was able to purchase a package of string cheese for $1.29 and it has 10 pieces in it ($.13 each) so I did have a snack mid-morning today and Steve has a couple with him should he be hungry this afternoon. I also have yogurt and strawberries if I feel I need something this afternoon.

With the exception of a sandwich on Monday, the plan for our lunches this week is to eat leftovers from dinner the previous night – not a change from our normal routine. Dinner last night was great – didn’t even make the salad I had planned, opted for sliced cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden instead because the head of cauliflower we steamed was so large. This is only day number #2 – will we stay within our budget?

Veronica Wimer, Purchasing Manager (second year taking the challenge): Tip of the century – get a pressure cooker! I cooked 1 C of dried pintos in only 10 minutes (soaked all day while I was at work) which yielded 2½ C cooked. I cooked the beans in 4 C water and 1C Vegetable broth. With the left over broth I cooked ½ C barley which yielded 1C cooked so I’ve got dinner and lunch for a couple days. Cost: 35¢ for the beans 30¢ for the barley and 70 ¢ for the broth. $1.30 for two meals… not bad. In an effort not to use up all of my allotted rice milk I didn’t make the cheese sauce that comes with my mac n chez, I just used butter.