Please join us as we follow Assemblymember Yamada on her fifth year participating in the Hunger Challenge as a Legislator. Each day this week she will share her experiences on just how difficult it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy with very limited resources. She will be living on a food budget of under $5 a day – the average amount a Californian receives in CalFresh benefits.
Day 1: Skeptics have asked me, “Why are you doing this—AGAIN?”…
The reasons are simple: hunger in America persists in the richest and most powerful nation on earth. And the assault on feeding Americans—by cutting the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $20 Billion over the next ten years has been eloquently questioned by none other than Paul Krugman in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/31/opinion/from-the-mouths-of-babes.html?_r=0
Going into this, my fifth annual Hunger Challenge, I have learned “survival shopping”, looking for sales and engaging in couponing. This year’s weekly budget of $24.90 is actually a relief over prior years when the daily amount was just a little over $3 per day. For me, coffee is the foundation of my food pyramid, and in earlier challenges, I had to forewarn my co-workers that I would be “off the juice” for five days since coffee was unaffordable. Fortunately, this year, the daily budget of $4.98 couple with a coffee sale and a $2.00 off coupon snagged me a 1-pound bag of storebrand French Vanilla ground coffee.
I am pleased to once again partner with Food Banks in my district, to call attention to hunger amidst plenty during June, Hunger Awareness Month. Remember that many of the long-term unemployed, children, students, and seniors, regularly face food insecurity. For me today, my thermos of home-brewed coffee, along with a grilled cheese sandwich on wheat bread and an overripe banana is food that will carry me through to dinnertime.
Day 2: With no Monday evening meetings, I was able to focus on cooking for the week.
Usually, dinner is a fast-grab from among two or three favorite restaurants, a luxury out-of-reach for most CalFresh recipients (although there IS a little-known restaurant program: http://www.snaprmp.org/).
I boiled the package of chicken, prepared the whole box of angel hair pasta (which turned out to be a mistake—too much food!), and divided the noodles in half to prepare the week’s dinner of spaghetti with tomato-basil pasta sauce, and chicken chow mein with zucchini. Had a glass of orange juice to quell the low-blood sugar feeling I had while cooking. I had a good serving of vegetarian and a piece of American cheese spaghetti and a couple slices of wheat bread for dinner, and felt full. The CalFresh budget did not allow for one of my other favorite foods—dessert. I did miss my usual sweet ending of my evening meal.
Lunch today was a serving of the other pasta dish—chicken/zucchini chow mein. Brought a blueberry yogurt for dessert. No breakfast today—my habit anyway. Drank most of my thermos-full of home-brewed coffee. Have had a full day of Senate committee bill presentation, water hearing and Caucus lunch (where those who knew me from previous sessions understood what I was up to by bringing my lunch) and will head to Veterans Affairs Committee this afternoon and a (non-eating, non-drinking) reception tonight hosted by the Latino Legislative Caucus.
Day 3 tomorrow—this year seems easier than all previous years.