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.