Fiona Ma for State Assembly

Hunger Challenge: Day 1

Hunger is a serious problem in California. Currently there are about 2.9 million Californians participating in the Food Stamp Program. In San Francisco about 30,000 are in the program yet 77,000 are eligible. The San Mateo and Santa Clara Food Banks operate the United States' 5th largest Food Bank, measured by pounds distributed per person in poverty. San Francisco has over 200 food pantries and 400 agencies that offer/distribute food.

Day One: September 12, 2010:

Can I live off $28/week in food? That's a question I've been asking myself.

Last year, my colleague Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada spoke on our Floor about participating in the Food Stamp Hunger Challenge: to live on $20/week (or $4/day or $1.33/meal) and urged others to try it the following year.

The idea intrigued me and when I was approached by the SF Food Bank a few months ago to take on this Challenge for 5-7 days, I said "I would do it"... not fully comprehending some of the difficulties.

I'm out in the community from the time I get up until the moment I get home. Since I normally have events or meetings at the lunch and dinner hours, Assemblywoman Yamada proposed a solution...."just bring your food with you or don't eat at all." Sounded reasonable enough.

As I was preparing for this Challenge, I realized that my typical breakfast at Starbuck's cost more than my day's allotment. One of my favorite lunches is the Subway 6" Veggie sandwich and a drink which also cost more than $4. By Friday, I was worrying and obsessing about food and the prices of items.

So to make my dollars stretch, I thought about going to a Farmers Market (having just started one at the Cow Palace) or an ethnic market (many in SF). Bob Twomey, my District Director, told me that most Farmers Markets and small grocery stores don't accept food stamps.

So I decided to go to Safeway with two of my alibi/assistants, Gina Frisby and Bernadette Lawrence. (FYI, some of my staff have also accepted the Challenge).  We asked for the day's coupons, bought a lot of generic brand items and "specials" and checked out the 50% rack.

We purchased:

  • 1 box of raisin bran cereal:  $2.79
  • 4 cans of vegetables: $2.95
  • 3 cans of soup: $4.00
  • 1 box of rigatoni noodles: $.99
  • 1 jar of peanut butter: $2.50
  • 6 packages of Top Ramen: $1.69
  • 1 box of fruit grain bars: $1.49
  • 2 cans of tuna: $1.58
  • 1 dozen eggs: $1.49
  • 1 quart of milk: $1.29
  • 1 loaf of wheat bread: $1.19
  • 3 bananas: $.86

We ended up spending a total of $22.82 (with a savings of$9.93 through my Safeway Club Card and $3.55 using the coupons). 

And I have $5 to spare this week.  Stay tuned....