Today marks the beginning of the San Francisco Food Bank and Marin Food Bank's 2013 Hunger Challenge... Let's do it!
I found this to be an interesting subject topic and with so many well-known local chef's participating, I thought to myself, "Hey, I would like to get the word out." With that, starting today and running through Friday evening, I will be an active participant in the project.
An invitation from Paul Ash, Executive Director, San Francisco and Marin Food Banks:
"I invite you to participate in a Hunger Challenge designed to bring awareness to the struggles faced by low income residents in our cities. The San Francisco and Marin Food Banks want you to experience what it’s like to build your weekly meals around a food stamp budget and groceries similar to those we distribute at our pantries.
The Food Bank Hunger Challenge includes two parts – a simulated food pantry experience and a self-imposed $4.50-per-person a day food budget. This challenge is designed with two parts to mirror the experience of food pantry participants who also receive SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps). For the simulated pantry experience, the Food Bank will provide a grocery list for you to purchase foods that are traditionally found at our weekly pantry distributions. This does not count against your $4.50-per-person SNAP food budget. We ask that you live for five business days on the pantry groceries and an additional $4.50 a day per person food budget.
The Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge will begin Monday morning, Sept. 9 and run until midnight, Friday, Sept. 13.We’ve provided a helpful Frequently Asked Questions page about the campaign.
As you have heard in the news, SNAP benefits are currently under attack in Congress with a proposal to cut the program by $40 billion. In San Francisco and Marin counties, about 57,000 people rely on CalFresh, as SNAP is known in California, and most of them are children.
The grocery list we provide you will parallel what we provide to more than 30,000 families through our pantry network each week. More than 60 percent of each pantry offering is comprised of fresh fruits and vegetables. The healthy produce is complemented by lean protein, such as chicken or eggs, and grains like rice and pasta.
If you’re asking yourself whether this challenge will be difficult and inconvenient, I assure you it will be. Going out for a restaurant dinner or buying a daily latte doesn’t figure into this budget. This will be a week of planning meals and making every dollar stretch.
I invite you to take this challenge with me, so that together we can speak from the perspective of a food pantry participant and SNAP beneficiary."
I began my day with a trip to Target for my grocery needs. I'm adhering to the pantry grocery list of the following foods, which reflects the food I would receive at the Food Bank pantry, along with a minimal budget of $4.50 a day for additional groceries.
Cantaloupe: 1 medium (1) (2)
Carrots: 6 (9) (12)
Onions: 3 (5) (7)
Oranges: 2 (3) (4)
Pears: 2 (3) (4)
Potatoes: 4 large (6) (8)
Stone Fruit (mix of peaches, plums or nectarines): 4 (5) (6)
Strawberries: 1 carton (1) (2)
Tomatoes: 4 medium (6) (7)
Watermelon: 1 small/medium melon (1) (1 large)
Eggs: 1/2 dozen (1 dozen) (1 dozen)
Rice: 1-lb package (2-lb package) (2-lb package)
I decided to spend my extra $22.50 all at once, on staple products that I knew would last/keep throughout the week such as the following:
Whole Milk (1 gal)
Cheddar cheese (8 oz)
Monterey Jack cheese (8 oz)
Flour tortilla (10, 8-inch)
Farfalle pasta (12 oz)
Wide Egg noodles (16 oz)
Cream of mushroom soup (1 can)
Diced, peeled canned tomatoes (1 can)
Albacore tuna (10 oz)
Russet potatoes (8)
Ground Chuck (1 lb)
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1.5 lb)
Garlic (3 bulbs)
All this for $22.50 you ask? Yes. Since I stuck mostly with the cost efficient store brand, the total came to $22.28 out the door. I substituted the oranges (not a fan) for garlic (need seasoning somewhere!) and walked out feeling pretty satisfied with the amount of food.
While at the store, having to budget and plan meals down to the penny was stressful- every few minutes I'd stop, take out my calculator and really think to myself, "Is this a need or a want? Can it be savored as leftovers? Are these portions too small? Why is this so expensive?" I can't imagine having to do it for a family of four or five- I was struggling just planning for me and the hubbs. Already effecting my perception, I realized that when it comes down to it, I buy WAY too many groceries for one week. Being forced to choose the options that would stretch further, I came face to face with my own excess. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for five days in just one packed grocery bag seems a little intimidating, but we can do it.
*As soon as pulled in the driveway*
I thought I did pretty good... Until I realized that I forgot to buy vegetables. Yes, that's right. The only veggies in our possession this next week are three tomatoes, a couple onions, lots of potatoes and some carrots. We usually eat VERY balanced meals around these parts, consisting of a protein, starch and green super vegetable- not this week! We're back to basics.
I'll be blogging meal recipes and tips on how to make a little go a long way this week during the Hunger Challenge, so stay tuned. While I realize I am lucky to be making this choice, I am hoping to gain better insight, having been moved to advocate for the hungry.
Visit www.sffoodbank.org for more info on recipes, budget shopping tips, donations and inspirations.