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Hunger Action Month Reaches All Areas of the Nation

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: Hunger Action Month is an opportunity to raise the issue of hunger as one voice across the nation. In September, we reach out to our supporters and volunteers, those who are already concerned about hunger, and ask them to join us in action. We invite them to share about the issue with their friends, family and coworkers who might not even know hunger is a problem. With this collective effort we are able to spread the fact that one in six Americans is at risk of going hungry to many more people than the Food Bank could on our own.  The power of social media, email and face-to-face conversations about why we Turn Orange each September have spread the message to all areas of the community.

Our largest area of support, our volunteers, donors and staff, are all given a simple and clear message. Hunger is everywhere, and we can all do something about it. They are invited to Turn Orange to make a bold statement to start the conversation about hunger. Their enthusiasm spreads to their circle of influence, including those who might not be as involved with hunger relief. Every time they share a postcard with a business or wear their Turn Orange t-shirt, they are standing up for the people we serve and raising awareness.

For the people our supporters reach who do not know as much about hunger in America, we appreciate their willingness to learn. We have statistics based on census data and third-party surveys to show the incredible need across all walks of life. We can reference academic papers and books that discuss poverty and hunger in great detail. But we can also teach people about hunger in their community by taking them to one of our Community Produce Program distributions. People will see a program that distributes fresh fruit and vegetables directly to low-income individuals. Those who visit any of our distributions will see that the people we serve look a lot like them. Families with children need help with groceries; senior citizens need food to supplement their Social Security income. People need food assistance when they live in an area that has expensive housing and a high cost of living.

For those who still do not feel hunger is an issue, I consider it progress if we start a conversation. I received some comments about my article on living on a CalFresh budget. People made worthwhile points about where I shopped and the decisions I made and believed they could shop smarter on a regular basis. They correctly identified that I am a single individual and that I don’t have the patience to dedicate energy to shopping smart. All of these comments point to the fact that we never truly know who might need help with food because anyone could be battling healthcare costs, job loss or have to support an elderly parent. We all know life gets busy and someone might not have the time to shop if they are dealing with multiple jobs, family and kitchen situations or lack of access to healthy food. We hear stories like this every week.

Hunger Action Month is a time for us to empower supports to share why they are passionate about ending hunger in America and ask others to do the same. We thank everyone who took action in September whether you shared or just listened, you have helped move people in every category to consider the issue of hunger in America.

Living on a Limited Food Budget Takes Sacrifice

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: During Hunger Action Month every September the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano joins with people throughout the country to take action to end hunger.  We are working to create a movement that will no longer accept hunger in a society as rich as ours.  Part of this effort is helping people understand why their neighbors are hungry and what we can do to make a difference.  For someone who has been doing this work as long as I have, this is an opportunity to step back from what we do every day and look at why we do what we do.

As part of Hunger Action Month, I have spent this week living on food I bought with the average CalFresh (Food Stamp) allotment.  For this working week, I took my $22.50 ($4.50 per day) and bought what I needed to get by.  A box of store-brand Toasty O cereal was just over two dollars.  Enough yogurt for five lunches was a little over three dollars and I bought bananas to put in the yogurt (bananas are a lot cheaper than strawberries).  For dinner, spaghetti was on sale for 99 cents and pasta sauce was $2.99.  I also bought lettuce, cucumber and a pepper to make a salad my dinner.  I also bought six eggs for $1.75.  A couple ears of corn were pretty cheap, and I was set.

This effort reminded me that living on a low-cost diet can be done, but it takes planning and sacrifice.  I had to make compromises because I really would have preferred strawberries, but I had two pasta dinners with half an ear of corn and two salad dinners with corn as well.  Scrambled eggs were my fifth meal.  Even though my meal selection was deadly boring, I got through a week living on a CalFresh diet, getting a glimpse of what life is like for those who need assistance.  It helped me understand the situation faced by those who do not have the money they need to get the food they need.  Making difficult decisions about where your limited resources go becomes a constant concern for people with low incomes.

Emotionally, it was a strange feeling when the week came to an end.  Rather than feeling proud of myself, I felt as if I had been a bit condescending.  I had only “sampled” being poor, not lived that life.  I lived the CalFresh diet one week, not for months at a time.  I only had my food needs to worry about, not those of my children.  I didn’t have any car problems, medical issues or other problems pull money away from me.  I pretended to be poor in one small way for five days, and on Saturday, I could take my credit card and go out to a dinner at any restaurant I wanted.  Living on a very limited food budget for the long term is much more serious than boring meals. People make hard choices every day between buying food or paying the rent, utilities or putting gas in the car to get to work. These benefits and help from the Food Bank allow a little relief to those hard decisions.

To try the Hunger Challenge for yourself, visit www.foodbankccs.org/hungerchallenge.

Join Effort for a Glimpse of What Those in Need Endure

Originally posted in The Vacaville Reporter: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is working to end hunger in our community.  As so often happens, a straightforward idea becomes incredibly complicated when we look at all we need to do to reach that goal.  We know that our main purpose is to provide food to people in need in our community.  We recently participated in a national hunger study with other food banks that are part of Feeding America, the national food bank network.  It’s no great surprise that the study confirms low-income people face an incredibly difficult time providing healthy food for their families.  The people we serve face more difficult circumstances because the Bay Area is an expensive place to live.  People do not have room to negotiate housing or fuel costs, so food is often the area where people scrimp to save money.

Our job at the Food Bank is to make as much healthy food as possible available to low-income people in our community.  We have been able to dramatically increase the amount of fresh produce we provide through our Community Produce Program.  Through this program and our other distribution efforts, half the 21 million pounds of food we distributed last year was fresh produce.  Because we make healthy food easily accessible in low-income neighborhoods, we are having a positive effect on the lives of our neighbors in need.

But hunger in our community cannot be solved solely by the Food Bank.  We have a responsibility to educate the community about the need around us.  In the suburbs, hunger is not as visible as in urban centers.  Those who live in nice housing developments only drive through low-income neighborhoods, and that is probably on a freeway.  So we are asking people during Hunger Action Month in September to slow down and consider what it is like to not have the money you need for food.  During the week of September 15, I ask people to join me living on the amount the average Cal Fresh (food stamp) recipient receives for their food each day, $4.50.  It’s not totally sharing the experience a Cal Fresh recipient lives because I can use my spices and cleaning supplies. I’m not living the life a low-income individual faces every day, but living on the Cal Fresh budget helps me understand the tough decisions low-income people make.

If you can only spend $4.50 a day you realize how expensive fresh fruits and vegetables are.  Processed foods are significantly cheaper, so you ignore the huge amounts of sodium you are consuming and the poor nutrition the packaged food provides.  High fructose corn syrup tastes good and is a cheap part of the packaged food we buy.  Low-income people are trying to make healthy food choices, but they are doing that on a budget of $4.50 each day.  Please join me the week of September 15 so we can better understand the lives our low-income neighbors live.

 

Old School Savings

By Food Bank Board Member Jill Steele: For today’s breakfast I made Jiffy corn muffins.  Jiffy is a basic muffin mix brand dating back to the 1930s that hasn’t changed much and is really inexpensive.  I was able to buy two boxes for $1.38 which yielded 12 large muffins after just adding in 2 eggs and some milk.  The kids will be able to eat the muffins for breakfast as well as an afternoon snack

Lunch today will be leftovers from last night.  My wonderful husband made chicken adobo and rice using another amazing deal from Safeway.  Chicken leg pieces were on sale for 99 cents/pound.  So this dinner and lunch will end up costing less than $10.

For dinner tonight I planned on making a pasta dish, but I will be working late and need to get my kids to different activities right around dinner time.  Wednesday is a night we usually eat out due to our busy schedules so we may resort to another super Safeway deal of frozen burritos that I got for 40 cents each.  I usually read ingredient labels very closely, but tonight we are probably going to trade off high-quality and healthy ingredients for cost and convenience.

Jill is participating in the Hunger Challenge with her husband and three children. Read her first two posts here. To learn more about the Challenge visit www.foodbankccs.org/hungerchallenge.

Hunger Challenge Slashes Budgets

By Food Bank Board Member Jill Steele: I decided to take the Hunger Challenge and see what it is like to eat on $4.50 per day.  By taking the Hunger Challenge we are committing to eat all of our meals this week from a limited food budget comparable to that of a SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) recipient.  We are a family of five, so our total weekly budget is $112.50.  This is a pretty big reduction from what we normally spend on food.  I usually spend between $150-200/week on groceries, plus we eat out once or twice for dinner and my husband and I often eat out for lunch and grab coffee for a total of about $300/week on food.  

When we decided to do this challenge we sat down with our two older children to explain what we were doing this week and why.  We explained that there are many people in America (1 in 6) that don’t know where their next meal is going to come from and that many of those people are children (1 in 4 people receiving emergency food are children).  By eating on a SNAP budget and blogging about it, we hope to raise awareness for people that may not know where their next meal is coming from.  We also thought that it would be good for them to learn more about budgeting and healthy eating. 

I am a working mom with three kids, so I often rely on prepared foods and/or take out to manage our busy schedules.  Knowing that I won’t be able to do that this week, I spent almost the entire day (Sunday), planning what we are going to eat, grocery shopping, and preparing food for the week.  I started out the day planning what we would eat for the entire week (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks) and estimating whether or not we could get it all within our SNAP budget.  I didn’t clip coupons, but did leverage the Safeway Just For U app which helped me save over 30% on my grocery bill which ended up costing $84.00.  We have a couple of items already in our house (milk, pears, sunbutter, rice, popcorn, spices) that we will use for our meals this week, so I wanted to try and be under the $112.50 budget.   I realized that the only way to make this budget work, was to not rely on pre-packaged convenience foods and to make more of our meals/snacks from scratch.  I then spent about three hours preparing food including home-made granola, granola bars, and banana chocolate chip muffins.  All of these foods will save us a significant amount of money, but did “cost” me a lot of time.   

I am hoping that this will be a good learning experience for the entire family and will help to raise awareness for those who are food insecure and don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Day 2: Stretching your food

One of my tactics for living on a SNAP budget this week is to stretch our food.  This is something that my grandparents’ generation used to do a lot to make precious ingredients like meat go farther.

Our meal for dinner last night was stir-fried pork and green beans.  This is a pretty regular meal in our house, but to stretch it into two meals (dinner and next day’s lunch) I did two things: 1) added more green beans, and 2) served it with more rice. 

Knowing that we wanted to use this meal for lunch the next day, I made sure we didn’t  eat more than half for dinner.  Because of that I ate less than I normally would – assuming I would be fine given a late afternoon snack I had.  This morning I woke up before my alarm went off feeling hungry.  This was something I normally don’t feel and I realized it was probably due to controlling how much I ate last night to ensure we had enough for lunch today. 

This feeling of hunger gave me a moment to reflect on what we are doing with the Hunger Challenge and to remember the 149,000 people that the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano serves each month.

 

It’s not too late to join the Hunger Challenge. To learn more and sign up, visit www.foodbankccs.org/hungerchallenge.

Challenging Myself to Experience Hunger

Next week, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is joining with Feeding America to encourage people to take the Hunger (SNAP) Challenge  part of  Hunger Action Month. For one week, particpants will live on just $4.50 a day, the average daily benefit per person provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly known as Food Stamps and known as CalFresh in California).

It is not too late to sign up! If you would like to participate, please fill out the form on our Hunger Action Month page.

Below is an update that was posted to LinkedIn by Ron Shaich, founder, chairman, & CEO at Panera Bread.

Panera Bread founder, chairman, & CEO Ron Shaich shops for groceries in preparation for the SNAP Challenge. (source)

Last week, there was an article on the front page of The New York Times entitled, “On the Edge of Poverty, at the Center of a Debate on Food Stamps.” The article sheds light on the reality of food insecurity in America – millions of families that “look like we are fine,” according to one man, but in reality, “live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food.”

The families featured represent only a handful of the nearly 49 million people in America who, very simply, are hungry. We live in the “land of plenty,” and yet nearly 48 million people receive food stamps and 16 million children go to bed hungry.

Whether or not we talk about it, acknowledge it or pay attention to it, hunger is a serious and real problem in the United States.

And yet, despite everything I have learned about hunger and the various efforts I’ve undertaken to try to make a dent in the problem, I have never actually experienced hunger firsthand. I’m not talking about the hunger that comes after skipping a meal. I’m talking about not knowing when or where my next meal will come from on a regular basis. I’m talking about having to decide between paying for an unforeseen medical or housing expense versus buying food to feed my family for the month.

That’s why, as part of Hunger Action Month, I decided to take the SNAP Challenge. For one week, beginning Saturday, September 14, 2013, I will live on just $4.50 a day, the average daily benefit per person provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly known as Food Stamps). I am also extending the challenge to Panera’s Societal Impact Steering Committee, the group responsible for helping Panera leverage its core competencies to help create real change and lasting solutions against hunger. Another partner of mine in this challenge will be Bob Aiken, the CEO of Feeding America.

To be perfectly honest with you, I’m nervous. As the SNAP Challenge week approaches, I feel a sense of fear about my budget, what kinds of food I’ll be able to afford, the impact that the Challenge will have on my work and ability to concentrate. However, as the CEO of a company that is committed to making a difference in our communities, it is critical that I understand this problem in a deep and personal way.

I am aware that this challenge only lasts one week. And I understand that many millions of people, including some of Panera’s own employees, have encountered more prolonged and painful bouts of food insecurity. My week is merely a simulation of what so many millions deal with every day. To be clear, I don’t mean to trivialize anyone else’s experience or claim mine as an authentic representation of what food insecurity looks like. Rather, my hope is to inspire other leaders – in business, government and the nonprofit world – to take on the challenge of food insecurity as their own. In the process, I also hope to inspire myself to continue to innovate and find new solutions to the problem of hunger.

Throughout my Challenge, I will be posting updates on LinkedIn. I will walk you through my shopping experience on the $31.50 weekly budget, my meals, my feelings, my energy level. I also hope to share information about the different solutions out there – from federal assistance to food pantries. And I’ll share insights gained from Panera team members taking part in the challenge.

If you feel inspired to take part in the challenge yourself, visit www.hungeractionmonth.org for more information. As ever, please share your experiences on the SNAP Challenge or with other Hunger Action Month activities in the comments section.

I’ll be back on September 14 to start sharing about my Challenge. As my friends at Feeding America say, Together We Can Solve Hunger™.

Join Mr. Shaich and get a sense of what life is like for those struggling to put food on the table with the average benefit for people who receive SNAP/CalFresh. Sign me up for the Hunger Challenge!

The original content of this post can be found at http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130909205336-25745675-challenging-myself-to-experience-hunger.
 

Hunger As a Way of Life

Guest post by Food Bank Office Assistant, Lauren Strouse: While the Hunger Challenge is over for some, for many it is a way of life.  I participated, successfully, last year, but opted out this year since I have “been there and done that,” having actually lived the challenge at several different times in my life. I grew up in a small Midwestern rural community. The closest town was five miles away, possessed one tiny grocery store where my mother shopped in a pinch, and a butcher shop she frequented on special occasions or when she needed to buy some meat from someone “on credit.”  The closest bon-a-fide supermarket was 10 miles from our farm and we only had one car. My dad was a printer and made enough money that we probably qualified as lower middle class, but he was also a functioning alcoholic with a penchant for playing dice and cards so my mother often had to make due with a pretty limited food budget. There were no Food Stamps and although there was a commodities program, it was not available where we lived. There were also no free or reduced lunches in rural America during the 60’s. It is amazing that I still like peanut butter given how much of it I ate as a child. I hated my thermos, but I appreciated the hot soup it carried during the winter time.

I learned how to cook and shop from my mother. By the time I was 16 I could make gravy with just about anything – butter, flour, and milk with dried chipped beef for chipped beef on toast; ground beef and milk gravy over potatoes; sausage and gravy over biscuits; and when times were really tough, gravy made with crisply fried salt pork. We always had evaporated milk and powdered milk on hand, always had staples like flour. I could feed 8 people with a pound of hamburger. We made a dish called “goulash.” The more people, the more ingredients – one pound of ground beef, elbow macaroni, canned diced tomatoes, onion, celery, peas, corn, kidney beans, and sometimes even carrots to really stretch things. I learned how to cook and bake everything from scratch “just in case.” Since we only had one supermarket, I learned how to shop sales, stock up when something was really a bargain, and eat seasonally. We always had a summer garden, raised chickens for eggs, and picked wild berries to eat fresh and for jam. There were a few rather ancient apple, and plum trees on the property when we moved there as well as an overgrown asparagus patch – we used all of these things. We had a farmer friend that grew strawberries and he would let us pick our own for less money. My mother did some canning, mostly fruit, froze vegetables, and made pickles. She also made gooseberry wine and one spring we tapped our sugar maples and cooked our own maple syrup. (It was a fun experience, but a lot of work) We didn’t eat fancy, but we never went hungry, even the time my dad lost most of his paycheck shaking dice. We weren’t totally deprived; we had popcorn and a glass of RC Cola when we watched the Saturday night movie on TV and my mother made the best homemade hot fudge sauce ever; when the money was there we did get treats – real popsicles, potato chips, Twinkies instead of homemade cookies, but I grew up learning how to make do without those things. I also learned that to eat well with limited funds took planning and it was work.  I learned that to eat healthy and not go hungry meant making smart choices; we didn’t get the latest fancy sweetened cereal to hit the shelves, we got Cheerios or Wheaties or my mother cooked Malt-O-Meal or Cream of Wheat. Snacks at our house usually consisted of fruit or graham crackers, saltines or celery with peanut butter.

My first job after college was working for the Ramsey County Welfare Department as a Food Stamp eligibility worker. I learned quickly which clients managed well using Food Stamps and which ones were always challenged: clients that were from  Asian or Hispanic families who ate a traditional diet did fine; older people, especially those who had lived through the depression or the World War II did fine; but younger people often did not because they were the ones who did not know how to cook from scratch or how to comparison shop or even how to plan well.

I got divorced in 1998 after 29 years of marriage. I went from an income of $100,000 plus per year to living off of $8 an hour working for a small nonprofit. My spousal support covered my mortgage payment. Because of my spousal support I did not qualify for Food Stamps. I was confident about my ability to survive, however, because I grew up learning how to successfully meet the Hunger Challenge and most importantly – I never forgot.

 

The Hunger Challenge: Life in Full Flavor

Guest post by Associate Local Patch Editor, Emily Henry: It’s amazing how different the world looks after a week of vigilance. The constant awareness of food has expanded into a corporeal experience of everything else, and this increased sensitivity is both pleasurable, and painful.

Take a strawberry, for example.

Usually, I would eat a strawberry without thinking much about the experience. It is simply there, I eat it, and there are more if I want them — or even if I don’t. It doesn’t matter.

But this week, eating a strawberry has been a decision, an experience, and an afterthought. Firstly, I pay attention to my desire to eat a strawberry. How strong is it? Where does it come from? What is it about a strawberry that is particularly attractive to me at that moment? Then, I have to contemplate the consequences, which in this case would be a depletion of resources — one less strawberry — and also of funds. I then must measure my level of desire against those foreseeable outcomes.

I decide that, yes, I want a strawberry more than I want anything else, and I want it now, rather than later.

I take one from the fridge and feel the compactness of its weight in my hand. I dig the stem out with my thumb, careful only to target the hard, white base. Upon first bite, the sweetness makes my mouth water. The coldness sends sharp pangs through my front teeth. I look at the half-bitten strawberry held between my fingers and notice the texture of its pink-and-white interior, the subtle hairs, the void within. I notice that the small dots on its surface come in an array of greens and browns. I realize later that I am having an experience. I am experiencing a strawberry, probably for the first time since my initial experience of one, when the flavor was new, the texture a mystery.

And as I write this, I suddenly feel the need to stipulate that no, I was not — and am not — high on any drugs.

Looking back at The Hunger Challenge, it makes sense to me now that this is what I would take away from it: a heightened sense of taste for the “moment,” the experience of consuming.

In a consumer culture, consumption is so continual and instrinsic that the act itself is rendered meaningless. This week, however, everything I have consumed has been a conscious and poignant act. I have been in touch with the value of things, and have seen them in focus before my eyes rather than just a blur in my peripheral vision.

And the truth is, even though The Hunger Challenge is over — I don’t want to stop seeing the beautiful simplicity of life, or lose my sense of taste for all its bittersweet moments.

To follow along with my experience of The Hunger Challenge, read:

Monday: The Hunger Challenge: Fueling Up Without Breaking Down
Tuesday: The Hunger Challenge: Convenience Costs, Plan Ahead
Wednesday: The Hunger Challenge: How Powerful is a Rumbling Stomach?
Thursday: The Hunger Challenge: Turning into a Ghost

A Week on the Hunger Challenge

Guest Post by Dawn LeBar:

Sunday, June 10th

Well, I truly did sign up for this, and now it’s Game On.  I went to the grocery store tonight to get ready for the week. Went to WinnCo, knowing it’s cheaper than my usual Nugget shop stop. When you only have $22 to spend it doesn’t go far no matter where you shop.  I bought a dozen eggs ($3.29), 2 loaves of store brand wheat bread (2 loaves for $5), box of store brand raisin bran type cereal ($3.29), package of thin sliced ham ($2.79), bag of apples ($2.00), and a gallon of milk ($3.89).

I am nervous already.  No pasta, no ice cream, no granola bars, no Skinny Cows, no cherries ($4.99!!!) and most certainly no meat.

It reminded me of when my mom would take us to the grocery store, the clerk would ring it all up, my mom would gasp at the total and proclaim, “..and we didn’t even buy meat!!”

Monday June 11th

Today was a pretty easy day. Had cereal for my breakfast, where I would usually have a granola bar (it’s much easier).  I boiled eggs last night and made egg salad, so I had a yummy egg salad sandwich for lunch. Dinner wasn’t so easy.  I thought about breakfast and lunch but didn’t really buy anything for dinner.  Cereal for dinner! Yummmm!

Here is my cheat:  I must confess, or I will feel like I am lying about this whole deal.  And I’m admitting it because it’s rather humbling and sort of proves a point:  Every morning (ok, most) I stop at Starbucks on my way to work and get a venti black coffee for the low, low cost of $2.25. I have a gold starbucks card, which I re-load every 2-3 weeks at $25 a pop.  I literally was in the drive-thru this morning when I realized this is not covered under the “Hunger Challenge”. And I could’ve escaped, but I didn’t.  My rationale is that I have a balance on my card, so I’m not actually spending any money. See?  So there is my cheat.  And also shows that I spend an average of $10 a week just on black coffee, and $2.25 a day! That is half my daily allotment!!

Tuesday June 12

Hard boiled egg for breakfast. Have I mentioned how much I don’t like to cook, and am on the go most of the time? How I eat on the run, eat what is convenient, eat what is already prepared.  What I eat that is healthy is fruits and vegetables, however they are ridiculously expensive when again, you only have $22 to work with.  Let’s start paying extra attention to the obesity rate for the working poor, shall we??

Ham sandwich for lunch and – wait for it, Cereal for dinner!

Wednesday June 13

Today I had a bit of a cheater as well, though it’s technically not my fault. But I DID forego my morning “free” Starbucks.  I had a work luncheon today, which afforded me a de-lish chicken and mandarin orange salad.  Tasted like Heaven.  I couldn’t  very well break out my ham sandwich in a baggie, now could i??

Here’s a bit of catharsis:  When I was a kid, my mom was a single parent – my brother and I would go to the grocery store with her, and when it came time for her to pay for the groceries, we knew what was coming – she was going to break out the sheet of stamps. (back then, they didn’t have EBT cards). My brother and I would slink down and pray no one saw us, because we were so embarrassed. How could I even begin to know how my mother felt? I feel ashamed for feeling that way.

One stigma I detest to this day is that people on public assistance are lazy and won’t get a job, and live off “the system”.  I can tell you, my mom worked HARD. Sometimes 2 jobs, to take care of my brother and I.  It’s what we call “the working poor”.  I give my mom credit for my strong work ethic, integrity and appreciation for all I have. I’ve worked for everything, and I made a point to teach my sons the same thing.    It is an offensive, derogatory stigma that I wish our society would erase.  The few  bad apples should not represent ALL.

Did I mention that I am eating an apple with almost every meal?

Thursday June 14

So glad this is almost over. I am jones’ing for an Its’it.  I went out with a friend this evening and let him buy me a beer. It tasted fantastic. I wonder if food tastes better when you’re not supposed to have it.

Back to my catharses:  I had a saying I’ve carried throughout my life about my mom’s cooking:  She could make boxed macaroni and cheese 365 ways.  Again, I feel a bit ashamed for saying this, oh, probably a million times.  I know it was because you could buy that box of macaroni and cheese for sometimes 3 for a dollar, 2 for a dollar, and it was cheap.  She would throw tuna in it, peas, leftover stuff from the fridge; she always tried to change it up.  Oh, and egg noodles and butter. If I ever see another plate of egg noodles again, it will be too soon.

Here’s a non-food flash back:  we would be out of money sometimes and run out of toilet paper. I got used to stashing some just for those times. I had a stash under the sink, in my room, in the closet with the towels, so I never had to go without.  Simple things we take for granted – but to this day, I still have a “thing” about making sure I have an abundance of toilet paper in the house.

I think it’s important that I write this down – because these are memories I had from being a child.  Memories that have in some way, shaped me into who I am today.  Memories of stashing toilet paper, hiding food in my closet, (afraid I wasn’t going to have enough to eat), feeling embarrassed at the grocery store because my mom whipped out food stamps. I know my mom is reaching down from the Heavens right now wanting to smack me.. “Dawn Michelle!”

I cannot emphasize enough how much we as a society need to remember that someone – in some way, somehow, we need to take care of our children. It is our moral and humane obligation. It is our spiritual obligation.  Children cannot take care of themselves.  It is our duty – have we lost our human compassion?? (Ok, off the soapbox now)

Friday June 15, 2012

My last day of cereal and egg salad! Woo hoo!  I’m so glad this is over.  It has been much more difficult than I thought.   I want to celebrate tomorrow by having a fat cheese burger and ice cream.  The problem is that those who really are on CalFresh aren’t able to do that, so why should I? Seems a slap in their face, frankly.

My goal – continue to work on bringing attention to food deserts; volunteer my spare time to the Leaven, who works wonders with low income children and in providing them healthy food choices; be more conscientious about how I spend my money on groceries – lessen the impulse buying; support the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano more, as they are such a fantastic organization – so much more than a “Food bank”!!!

More than Feeling Hungry

Guest post by the Monument Crisis Center Staff: With more than 10,000 households registered for service, the staff members of the Monument Crisis Center are more familiar than most with the challenges and problems facing families and individuals without enough food. When we signed up for the Hunger Challenge, we anticipated feeling tired, hungry and irritated. But outside of our growling stomachs we came across a series of other challenges and realizations that can only come about by experiencing an extremely limited food budget firsthand.

Food is more than a way to fuel our bodies. Eating is often a social affair, a time to bond with our friends and family. Restricting our meal budgets to only $22.30 for five days has meant turning down engagements for dinner dates, going to a family potluck with only miniscule contributions, and skipping out on happy hour with coworkers. While these sacrifices are trivial to those of us participating in the Hunger Challenge for less than a week, individuals and families living on limited food budgets on a regular basis may face isolation, lost opportunities for networking, and depression due to these affects.

“Luxury of thought” sounds like a pretty ridiculous concept. How can formulating a thought be a luxury when so many of us are capable of thinking freely? What we found out by participating in the Hunger Challenge was that a huge portion of our time was spent planning, anticipating and craving meals. We would wake up hungry, eat breakfast. Around 10am we would feel hungry again and think about lunch. After lunch our minds were set on planning dinner. Constant thoughts surrounding food distracted us from responsibilities at work, home, and even from recreational activities. Being faced with the challenge of feeding ourselves on a shoe string budget year round could easily change our ambitions, hopes, and thought processes.

The frightening part of this experience was that only one aspect of our lives had changed, while many people in poverty lack stability in multiple arenas such as housing, childcare, and healthcare. The way we ate affected our waistlines, relationship with society and ourselves. Even for individuals who work every day to fight poverty, participating in the Hunger Challenge was a valuable and educational experience.