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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.

USDA Announces Nutrition Standards for Snack Foods and Beverages Sold in Schools

Originally shared by FRACToday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its nutrition standards for all foods sold in school outside of the federal school lunch and breakfast programs, including cafeteria “a la carte” items, vending machines, and other snack foods, and beverages. These new standards are an important step to remedy nutritional shortfalls in our nation’s children’s diets and to help address the obesity crisis.

These new nutrition standards, consistent with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, will promote the health of all school children throughout America. “Low-income children will especially benefit from these strong standards.” said FRAC President, Jim Weill. “When peer pressure and stigma drive low-income students to purchase less healthy  appealing competitive foods, instead of eating healthy school meals, they lose out nutritionally in a much bigger way than their more affluent peers, and their families lose financially,” said Weill.

The new regulations also implement the new requirement that schools make free drinking water available to children during meal times. “We were pleased to see improvements to the original proposed rules for water, including the extension of the requirement to offer free potable water to breakfast,” said Weill.

Moving forward with nutrition standards for all food sold in school and the provision of free drinking water for all students is an important step in the much-needed comprehensive overhaul of the school nutrition environment.

Will Workout for Turkey

Guest post by Laura Collins, Special Events Assistant: For the first time in many years, I did not host Thanksgiving. I didn’t have to prepare dishes days beforehand. I didn’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to pull the turkey from the cooler full of brine, or get the deep fryer ready, or pesto rub my free range bird, or do whatever the turkey de jour was for that year. So when I got up that morning, well, I just felt so aimless, I ended up burrowing into my sofa watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade just to feel like it was a holiday. LAME.

I made a promise to myself that I would never do that again, that I would do something to make my Thanksgiving morning meaningful, I mean that’s what it’s all about, right? The 65 people that turned out for Fit 2 the Core’s Turkey Day Workout made it meaningful this year. Talk about burn baby burn! These motivated folks spent their Thanksgiving morning torching calories, boosting their metabolism and put themselves through one hard core workout so that when they sat down to their feast, they earned it! (I just remembered, I did get up a couple of times to get more coffee – that had to burn at least, what, 24 calories??)

Tim and the Crew at Fit to the Core, provided this opportunity to do something healthy for participants, and they also provided the opportunity to make it doubly meaningful by helping others in the community. Anyone could participate that morning, with the gift of a minimum of a $10.00 gift certificate from a local grocery store which would donated to the Food Bank to help put holiday meals and nutritious food on the table of a family in need.

Thanks Tim, Donnie, Megan, Kelley and all who joined in that morning, way to do some serious damage control to hunger! And thanks for inspiring this couch potato, next year I’ll be up and about putting the giving back in Thanksgiving!

If you need motivation over the next year, don’t forget to check out what’s happening at the Food Bank, we always have ways to get involved, if you are already a hunger fighter, share your stories!

CalFresh Helps Individuals and Business Community

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter – The vision of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is this: Through our efforts, we can assure every person in need in the community that they will be able to receive one meal a day. It is an ambitious goal because even though we are serving more than 130,000 people each month and distributing 17 million pounds of food each year, the number of people coming to us indicates there is much more to do.

Several years ago, we recognized we could make a difference by helping people enroll in the CalFresh program (the new name for food stamps). We have staff members who go to food distribution sites and help people understand what they need to do to enroll in the CalFresh program. We work with county enrollment workers at “train the trainer” workshops to create a network of people who can help those coming for food assistance enroll in the CalFresh program.

Because of the economic downturn and community enrollment efforts, participation in the CalFresh program has increased dramatically in Solano County. More than 20,000 households (more than 40,000 individuals) in Solano County are receiving CalFresh — 9.6 percent of the entire county. These households are trying to survive on an income of 130 percent of the poverty rate (approximately $29,976 for a family of four). Helping people enroll in the CalFresh program provides people with the money they need to buy food for their family.

I hope the work we do helps people understand that CalFresh is a nutrition program that brings federal dollars into our community, where it is spent in our local grocery stores. For every CalFresh dollar that comes into a community, $3 of economic activity is generated.

Like the school lunch program or the senior meal program, CalFresh exists so we can help feed our neighbors. I am grateful the CalFresh program exists for the 1 in 10 who needs it today.

How was your day?

Guest post by Ambassador Laura Collins: “How was your day?”  Do you ever get asked that question?  Typically we answer with a simple “fine” or “great”, believing that it is just a courtesy question anyway.

Well on June 5 when asked that question, I did say “great”, but I also felt it was important to follow up with why it was great.  I spent my lunch time at the Concord warehouse of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano with a roomful of dedicated hunger fighters!  As part of the Food Bank’s ambassador program, each of the people there have represented the Food Bank at  community events, helped coordinate food drives, volunteered at distribution sites, done outreach to the community for Calfresh (SNAP, formerly Food Stamp Program), helped with fundraisers, and networked at Chamber of Commerce events.  Our goal is to educate our community on hunger issues, promote awareness and to also dispel myths concerning those receiving food assistance.  By the way, did you know that 1 in 4 emergency food recipients are children?  And over 35% of our clients had to choose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage?  (Once an ambassador you can’t pass up any opportunity to slip in a few quick facts!)

Along with the ambassadors, Food Bank staff was on hand also, to cheer us on and inspire us to continue our outreach.  As we introduced ourselves many ambassadors, like myself, credited outreach coordinator Patty McDowell with spearheading our efforts to get us out there in the public eye.  Coordinating with the community and other staff members Patty leads the ambassador program and is always on the lookout for more recruits!  (Hint, Hint)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Director Larry Sly was there to speak about the future of the Food Bank, and I have to say, he was on fire!  After 36 years with the Food Bank he is still passionate about the mission, if not more.  His goal is to make nutritious food more accessible to the people who need it.  He was very excited to tell us about the new Community Produce Program.  Thanks to generous support from donors in our community, the Food Bank is able to purchase a beverage-style truck complete with canopies and side doors that open up, for the purpose of delivering fresh produce to communities in need.  It’s simple and effective and families go home with fresh produce such as pears, oranges, apples, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and carrots.  Fresh, nutritious food that they may not have been able to put on their family’s table otherwise.  Larry wants the Food Bank to work as smart and as efficient as possible, and he thanked us for getting our communities involved through volunteering, donating and advocating.

As I looked around the room, I saw vital, busy people, several working full time, that still find time to care about their community and try to make a difference.  Just like them, I came to the Food Bank hoping to lend my skills to help in a meaningful way, and along the way I found that our community is clearly excited and eager to see us succeed.

So, how was your day?

From Hunger to Health

While a movement toward healthy eating has been building for some time, with the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, the trend is gaining national attention.  Because diabetes and obesity are on the rise, more and more Americans are beginning to educate themselves on making healthier food choices.   As families struggle to put healthy food on the table we began asking ourselves, what is the role of the Food Bank?  We know our goal in serving over 132,000 people each month is not simply to fill bellies but must also provide good nutrition.

The Food Bank now evaluates the nutritional value of each item we purchase, looking in detail at sugar and salt content, as well as the vitamins and minerals it contains.  Our Senior Food Program serves low-income people over the age of 55, so we buy low-sodium or no sodium canned vegetables.  For the Food for Children program that serves kids ages 4-5, we opt for canned fruit in 100% juice, not syrup.  We also avoid overly processed foods. Instead, we choose whole food items like beans, rice, and lentils.  We also provide the same options to our pantries and soup kitchens giving them more whole grain choices like brown rice, barley, and whole wheat pasta.

Our focus has shifted toward more fresh fruits and vegetables that provide our clients the nutritional balance they need.  In that vein, we have rapidly expanded the Farm 2 Kids program that provides fresh produce to low income school children.  Distributing fresh produce has increased so significantly over the last few years that 1/3 of the food now distributed by the Food Bank is fresh fruits and vegetables.

Fast Food Stamps

Should Food Stamp recipients be able to use their benefits to buy fast food? The program now known as CalFresh in California (and SNAP federally) was initiated during the depression to help end hunger and encourage domestic consumption of agricultural commodities.[1] The goal of the program is “to alleviate hunger and malnutrition … by increasing food purchasing power for all eligible households who apply for participation” as stated in the Food Stamp Act of 1977, as amended (P.L. 108-269).[2] A record 45.8 million Americans used the program in August according to USDA that number represents an 8.1% increase over the previous year. [3]

Even though the name changed last year and benefits have been received on a electronic debit card system since the 1990’s, the term “food stamps” has remained the commonly known name of CalFresh. As the new name implies, people are encouraged to purchase fresh, healthy food items with their benefits, but are allowed to purchase any food items found in a grocery store except hot food, alcohol, cigarettes, pet food and household items. Benefits can also be used at many farmers markets. And in California benefits can be used at restaurants by people who can’t cook for themselves such as homeless, elderly, and the disabled. Should it be ok then for all recipients to use their benefits at fast food places where the food quality and nutritional value is surely less than what they could get at the grocery store or fares market? A certain fast food company was recently lobbying for just that in several states.[4] Share your thoughts with us but please remember to keep it respectful.

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.

The Hunger Challenge Begins Next Week!

Attention All you Hunger Challengers: Set your $23.60 aside and go shopping this weekend! It might help to pre-plan and write out your menu for the week using the Shopping Log that way you get an idea of how far your weekly allowance will last. Planning ahead will help you to focus on buying foods that you can see yourself eating for a five day challenge and that can also be pared together to make a balanced meal.

The biggest mistake that I made last year was thinking that I would eat carrots every day for a snack. I didn’t care how inexpensive and good for you they were; by the end of the second day I had no desire to eat them again every day for the rest of the week. In preparing my shopping list I can see that it’s going to be the same ol’ things day after day, not a whole lot of excitement for my menu unfortunately.

The Hunger Challenge will take place Monday, September 12th – Friday, September 16th and will give you a feel for how a person receiving CalFresh Benefits (formerly the Food Stamp Program) would deal with daily eating on a budget of about $4 a day. Share your stories and challenges on our Hunger Challenge Facebook Group.