Day 6 Continued – $118,000 Raised for Bay Area Food Banks

my lunch

So I ate my left-over oatmeal as promised, mid-morning.  Then enjoyed my left-over stir fry from dinner.  Not lots of veggies, but there was some chicken left and the rice filled me up.   I finished my daughter’s apple from this morning on my drive to San Francisco.

inside the food bank
my chat on KGO

I made it to the San Francisco Food Bank where KGO was broadcasting live for the KGO Fights Hunger Day.  This was a great sight.  The Food Bank was in full swing.  Volunteers working outside and in to receive and stack food.  It’s amazing at how large the space is and how much food you see, and realize it’s still not enough to meet the community’s needs.  I sat down and chatted on the air with Gil Gross about my family’s experience with the hunger challenge.  In the brief time I was there (about 1/2 hour) someone came in to the front office and dropped off a check donation for $500.  During the interview an AT&T repairman came in to give $40 to Gil since he was working down the street and heard the KGO broadcast.  It was really special to be a part of.  And today KGO raised over $118,000 for Bay Area Food Banks.  That’s what the challenge is all about – raising awareness and funds.

I was really hungry by the time I was driving home.  I stopped and bought 4 bananas at $.19 each.  I saw this morning that after doing totals, I could spend $.80.  I thought that the bananas would be good for breakfast – since we’re just about out of fruit.  I came home and had a snack of pretzels and sunflower butter.  My daughter and husband were home.  Both my kid’s had playdates while I was in SF.  They of course reported what they ate.  My daughter had fruit and a grilled cheese sandwich and my son had a snack of homemade pumpkin bread.  Am I the only hungry one around here?

taco fixin's
my hungry family didn't wait for me to sit down
roasted broccoli

For dinner we had our taco/burrito night.  It was later than I wanted to eat after picking up my son from Tae Kwon Do.  A few times this week I’ve been so preoccupied with hunger I’ve had trouble thinking straight.  I was crabby when making dinner.  Everyone started without me.  I gave them a pass on manners as I took a few photos before I sat down.  It was tasty and filling and everyone enjoyed.  I browned the ground beef.  I also drained and sliced some tofu and browned that a bit as well.  There was some remaining tomato and shredded cheese to use.  I made guacamole with the avocado.  And heated the black beans and corn-wheat tortillas.  I also roasted the rest of the broccoli with a drizzle of olive oil and some sea salt.  No one complained – although a bit of salsa and fresh cilantro would’ve been great.  It’s a fun meal because the kids can make it themselves and build it to their liking.  Tofu, guacamole and cheese for my daughter and meat, cheese and beans for my son.  All of it for my husband and I.  Self choices and participation is always key to get kids to eat healthy foods.

So tomorrow’s our last day and I’m thinking we’re going to make it.

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KGO Fights Hunger Day – Tune In Sept. 16th

It’s day 5 and while some things are getting easier others are not.  I think as a family this has been a stressful week.  It is my kids’ first full week of school.  Not as hard on my son as it is my daughter who started kindergarten.  Participating in the hunger challenge for the kids was a fun game at first.  Then there were all the questions and the sighs/groans about not having access to something they’re used to eating.  Now they just ask, “Is this still the hunger challenge?”  I’d like to think it’s because they don’t think they’re missing anything (dinner looks like what we eat for the most part) , but maybe they’re just resolved to getting through it.  It’s taking a toll.  Not just my being hungry and likley more irritable at times, but all the effort of pouring over food lists, talking about the challenge, working on blogs, taking photos of every morsel we eat.  But it is worth it because people are talking about the issue and raising money and awareness, and that’s important.

I’m very excited to be part of KGO Fight’s Hunger Day tomorrow.  I’ll be talking about the challenge and my family’s experiences on the Gil Gross Show between 2 – 4pm live from the SF Food Bank.  The station will be broadcasting from food banks all over the bay area and taking donations.  Click here for more info and the day’s line-up.

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My Hunger Challenge 2011

I did my first challenge 4 years ago as one of the founding bloggers, and a few
things have changed in the country since then…

1. The amount has gone up from $4 to $4.72/day/person (this is average for
those in California – it’s less in other
states). Likley to be reduced by Republicans in January.

2. The amount of people on food stamps has increased to 44 million nationwide –
21 million are children. The number of new recipients increases 15% each
year.  I find these numbers staggering!

3. Nationwide one out of every seven Americans relies on food stamps. And
locally one out of every five children, adults and seniors living in Marin and
San Francisco counties struggle with hunger every day.

The challenge is to shop, cook and eat on a food stamp budget ($4.72 per day) and make yourself and others aware of what millions of Americans face every day. By participating in the challenge and sharing with friends and family about your experience (through blogs, facebook, twitter and actual conversations) the awareness and issues are brought to light.

Unfortuantely I wasn’t able to participate in last year’s challenge, as my dad was living with us on hospice care.  I couldn’t imagine having to add that to my caretaking, and spending extra time and energy on worrying about a meal budget.  I am lucky.  People living on food stamps don’t get a “time out” when taking care of a sick loved one.

A few things have changed in my life since that first challenge too…

1. My kids are older (now 5 and 8).  This is a big.  They were too little to know about budgets and hunger.  They were also too little to have many friends over, which I’d have to feed.  And they couldn’t open the refrigerator themselves.

2. We eat a lot less meat in our family.  This actually helps with the budget and we are more versed with beans, legumes, tofu etc.

3.  We’re a bit out of practice.  Lately I’ve been spending more money on groceries as there is a new Whole Foods next to my kids’ school.  This is good because of the convenience, but I know I end up spending more as I run in to pick up last minute items.

Here are the rules I set up this year, which are not unlike those from 2009 (check back):

1. Stay true to my philosophy of creating healthy, fresh foods for my family.  This means buying organic when possible and of course for the dirty dozen.

Kids get theirs.  Like any parent – you’ll sacrifice yours (food, shelter, etc) for your child’s needs.

2. I’m shopping carefully and not at once.  Just like our usual grocery shopping we don’t do it all at one store and we go more than once a week.  I also wanted to have money left after my big shopping to figure in those items I’ll need to buy again before the week’s up such as bread, milk, hummus.  Plus I want to always have fresh produce on hand.  I’m using our usual grocery stores – Trader Joe’s, farmer’s market and Whole Foods.

3. My budget is based on $4.72 x 3 (son, daughter and self), plus 22.03 for my husband.  He’s at work or meeting for lunches and out of my control, so I subtracted 33% from his share.  I hope that seems fair.  Thus our total for the week is $121.15.

4. Using my pantry.  I also don’t spend all my money and set aside about $5. so I can factor in things that you don’t have to buy every week and use a small quantity such as pepper, salt, oil, vinegar, baking soda.  I did have to buy brown sugar as I was out and needed it.  Eventhough I won’t use it all in one week, it is normal to have to buy something for the pantry.

5. Hitting the “food bank” pantry.  It’s great to know the Food Bank is there to help me with such items as potatoes, pasta, beans, etc if I need it during the week.  With so many people relying on the food bank, and funding and budget cuts, I’ll use this as a last resort.  This is really what makes the difference for many families.  It is an incredible operation full of great volunteers.  They even have community gardens and fresh produce available to those in need.

Stay tuned and see how my family does.  Hopefully they won’t give up on the challenge or me by Saturday.

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Do you know your taste? Find Out and Earn $1 for the Food Bank.

Do you know your taste?  Want to answer a few foodie questions  to earn $1 for the San Francisco Food Bank?  Please say yes.  For every person who takes the taste test, Dave’s Gourmet will give $1 to the SF Food Bank.   Check out the taste test here.  Because giving back is always good in taste.

I was at the Food Bank a few weeks ago helping Leah’s Pantry with a food smarts community training program.  The food bank is amazing.  First it’s massive which is always impressive.  How they get all of the pallates of food stacked, sorted, delivered, and set up for shopping is such a site.  It takes many, many dedicated workers and volunteers to provide thousands of children, families and seniors in the community with food.

Anyways…I took the Food Bank challenge and discovered I am umami.  Who knew?  Here’s what I got (so fun)….

You’re umami! Subtle, savory, and a little mysterious – that’s you, umami. You seek out those rich, complex foods with a certain special something: seafood, cheese, mushrooms. You’re not showy, and you get along well with others – so when you team up with one of your sour or salty comrades, people find you irresistible.

Find out what you are and the food bank gets $1.  Take a few minutes to answer a few food questions and provide your first name and email address, and Dave’s Gourmet gives $1 to the food bank.  Take the test and blog back here to share your taste.  Salty, sweet?  Let’s hear it.

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The Hunger Challenge – (not much) Food for Thought

From Lisa Barnes

My friend Adrienne of Leah’s Pantry told me about the San Francisco Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge and asked that I participate and blog about it.  I said yes, not really knowing many details, nor the facts about the people getting assistance from the food bank and government food stamp programs.  Once I learned I was very surprised by the small amount of money that could be spent, but still I thought it was doable, as I could certainly be creative with menu options and foods.

The average family living on food stamps has just $1 per person to spend on each meal (example my family of four would have $4 total per meal).  So the challenge is to try spending just $3 per day on food (per person in your household), or $21 a week per person.  Whether you try it for a week or just one meal they want us to share (blog) about our experience.  Also any shared recipes posted that cost $1 per person will help benefit the Food Bank and local community.  I’ve posted a few on their site, as well as a Pinwheel Pizza Recipe below.

This was definetely going to be more difficult than I had originally thought and there are a few things that make this challenge especially frustrating.  The first is that it has to be done at all.  Food should be a right, not a privilege.  All individuals and families should have access to healthy foods, especially in a country where so many have so much.  The second problem is having a family.  If you were only in charge of feeding and providing for yourself as an adult you understand your own circumstances and can try to be more discilplined.  How do you tell your child “no, you may not have the other half of her banana”?  Another issue is that having this small budget means shopping and buying things within your means which may go against your health and lifestyle.  If you want peanut butter you’re more likely to buy a processed version with transfats over a natural offering because it’s half the cost.  Or you may have to drive farther to a cheaper grocery store in an unfamiliar neighborhood.  Finally there’s the problem of making a poor choice and being penalized to eat it.  In buying produce such as apples you may find once you cut one that it is mushy or wormy inside.  You don’t have the luxury to waste it and choose another.

I immediately put my thinking cap on and reviewed my cookbooks.  I realized even that was a luxury as many can not afford to buy cookbooks.  I decided there are many single food items that could be made for $1 per person but what about anything to go with it.  I could buy hamburger but might have to forgo buns (at least whole wheat ones).  I could make pasta, but not be able to have a side of greens, let alone some french bread.  Plus my whole idea of $4 per meal didn’t allow for any snacks in between.  Tell that to my growing 2 and 5 year-olds, besides myself!  Parenting is a selfless act.  I am certainly used to my daughter eating the last bite of my oatmeal or my having to give up my sandwich if my kids want more.  But while I may go without for a short while, I certainly know I can have more later (make or order another sandwich)  or choose something else (they ate the rest of the pears, I’ll eat berries instead).  These parents just go without, period.

So I decided to set up some guidelines for myself and family for the challenge:

1. Shop at a place I would normally shop.  I frequent Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Mollie Stones and farmer’s markets.  I chose Trader Joe’s because of price.

2. Stick to my usual values and food philosophy of fresh, whole foods when possible.  Buying organic for the dirty dozen.  Thus I’m not going to buy a conventional apple just because it is cheaper and sacrifice health and pesticide exposure.  If it doesn’t fit the budget I will make another choice.  Also I’m not just going to buy a $1 on-sale chicken pot pie because it will satisfy hunger (but little else).  Although I do understand how someone could make that convenient choice.

3. Buy usual items my family enjoys and I feel good about feeding them.  In fact they didn’t even notice anything was different until dinner (see below)

4. Use a calculator and make measurements for accurate costing as best I could.  This was probably the hardest and most time consuming activity.  I realize many in the situation who are using food stamps can not do this.

5. The challenge was accepted by me, not my family.  Thus you’ll see in my day’s food journal below I went over (as noted) budget when my children asked for more.  I didn’t think it fair for them to go hungry (but explained the challenge and wanted them to appreciate what they have).

My husband participated in breakfast and dinner, but not lunch.  Again it was my decision, and he has lunch meetings that were out of my control.  Going to an office with a budget of $1 either means a brown bag (same lunch as my kids’) or heading unfortunately to fast food.  I found it interesting this week because of being tuned in to a $1 a meal, that McDonald’s advertises a menu with items that are $1.  All of a sudden I can see how someone with few means goes there because their hunger will be satisfied for $1.  Cheap food and convenience rules over nutrition and health.

Here’s how my day went:

Breakfast:

This was my usual.  Although I usually just blindly pour the oats and wet with my soy milk before heating,  this time I was careful to measure so that I would not go over budget.  I figured I had $.30 of oats for 1/2 cup.  I used 1/4 cup of milk which was $.25 and cut up a banana at $.40.  I sometimes choose berries and a sprinkle of granola on top as well, but today I did without.

My kids usually have a mix of 3 different types of cereal and granola with milk and bananas.  This day we didn’t have 3 different kinds because I needed to go to the store.  This worked out well because a family on food stamps would not have the luxury of 3 varieties.  The Nature’s Path granola is less than $3 a box at Trader Joe’s (more elsewhere, so makes a big difference when counting pennies) so they each have $.37 of cereal and $.25 of milk.  They split a kiwi at $.50.  But then they want another one, so I’m over budget by $.06 each.

Lunch

The kids went to school, so I packed them the same lunch (easier and saves time).  Again since they didn’t opt in, I made a usual lunch and added it all up.  They each get a cheese stick ($.33 each), mini bagel with sunflower butter ($.20 plus $.20) and split an organic apple ($.35 each half).  I’m thinking that’s good as the total is $1.08 each.  But then I realize I don’t have the trail mix in yet.  I usually combine things like sunflower seeds, dried fruit, yogurt covered raisins, and whole wheat crackers.  Again this variety wouldn’t be a possibility.  A prepared bag of trail mix would send my total over by about $.30, which does not seem like much but is over by 30%.  Yikes.

For my lunch I made egg and olive salad.  I made this planning ahead that I would be using olives for dinner.  (You really need to think ahead when making such a tight list and shopping on this kind of budget).  My lunch is 1 piece of whole wheat bread ($.25) toasted with egg and olive salad ($.90 for three servings).  I wanted a pear but realize I can’t afford to eat the whole thing at $.65 and stay in budget.  I cut to eat just half and save the rest.  But I am very disappointed to see that the pear has some brown spots inside.  I realize there is no room for waste and eat my half anyways.

Dinner

It’s dinner and I am hungry.  I usually would have a late afternoon snack with my kids.  Cheese and crackers or apple with hummus or peanut butter or yogurt.  They have theirs and I skip it.

I’m making spinach pinwheel pizza’s and salad.  Usually when I make pizza I also serve an antipasti of different veggies and dips and fancy olives and marinated mushrooms.  Not today.  Luckily I figure out I can make a salad if I buy bagged organic spinach and use it for the pizza and salad.  Also I have my olives from lunch that I didn’t use, so I’m not wasting.  The food bank gives tomato sauce and carrots so I don’t have to include those in my total.  Of course not everyone has the time or energy to make pizza dough from scratch so I bought pre-made whole wheat dough at Trader Joe’s.  At $1.29 it’s a bargain.  Although I could save if making my own (the most expensive ingredient being the yeast at $.50, then pennies for flours and oil).  Sometimes I buy pre-shredded cheese for pizza.  Let’s face it – it’s more convenient.  However buying the block and shredding myself is important to save money.  So I’ve got $.90 in cheese, $1.29 for dough, $.33 for olives, $0 for sauce and $.40 for spinach for the pizza which equals $2.92.  My (small) salad for 4 is spinach ($.40), carrots ($0), kidney beans ($.30) and cherry tomatoes ($.30) for a total of $1.00.  Thus I’m in $3.92 just under my $4 for the famly meal.  But wait!  I’ve been drinking free tap water (I realize in many places that isn’t safe), but my kids need milk.  That’s another $.25 each, so we’re over.

An interesting  thing happened when we sat down for dinner.

My son: “Is this dinner?”

Me:  “Yes, why do you ask?”

Son: “Well we usually have more things.  You only have 2, the pizza wheels and the salad.”

I explained to him about the challenge and how people who don’t have much money don’t have much food or choices when eating.  We’ve talked about how lucky we are to have food and clothing and toys and how others are not as lucky.  He seemed to understand when we donate clothing, toys and canned goods throughout the year, however this was more real.  When he asked for his and his sister’s frozen berries after dinner and I explained in a home where this was all the food for the day I’d have to say “no, I’m sorry, maybe tomorrow” – he understood.  The idea on not having enough to eat and going hungry or without himself was a powerful lesson.  But I did give him and his sister the berries.

So the challenge was eye opening.  So many things to be grateful for – healthy food, variety, abundance, family meals.  I also have a better understanding of how someone in this transitional time (you can’t get food stamps forever – the average is 9 months) can easily make unhealthy decisions or feel like they have no choices at all.  Whether you have no income or a high income, people must make the time and energy to shop wisely, stay on budget, plan menus and cook at home in order to make healthy meals a priority.  There are plenty of people with lots of money who still make nutritionally poor food choices because they do not realize the importance of eating whole foods and having healthy family meals.  I was happy with the guidelines I chose for myself in the challenge.  To know that I could eat something tasty and healthy without going to the frozen food aisle and stay pretty close to budget.  It all takes time, planning and determination.   I don’t take those things for granted.  I also did without drinks (other than water) and snacks, which are important for energy throughout the day.  What seems like small change to most of us can make a big difference in someone’s attitude, energy level and overall health.

Pinwheel Pizza

(makes 8 pieces, 1 family meal)

1 pound whole wheat pizza dough
½ to ¾ cup favorite jarred tomato sauce
¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup fresh organic baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons chopped black olives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch-round metal baking pan.

Roll dough out into a rectangle shape, about 10 x 12 inches. Spread sauce on top. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Top with spinach leaves (kids can help arrange) and sprinkle with olives.

Starting with shorter end, roll dough into a tube, with all sauce and toppings inside. You may have to lengthen and even out the dough roll.  Carefully transfer roll to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, make hard quick crosswise cuts to slice through dough, preventing dough from mashing and sauce spilling out. Cut log in half, then each half in half, then each quarter in half again, so you have 8 equal pieces.

Reshape dough wheels and arrange in baking pan, leaving about ½ to 1 inch between each wheel, so they can expand and rise and push into each other when they bake. Sprinkle wheels with remaining cheese. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until golden brown and dough is cooked. Carefully remove each wheel from the pan with a spatula or pie server.
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, and Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
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