Do I really have to do this? I am already sympathetic to people who, for whatever reason do not have enough to eat. Come on, I took the Challenge last year and learned a lot. I mean I work for the Food Bank (of Contra Costa and Solano), do I need to try and live on a CalFresh (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) budget for a week to understand that there is a real need for food assistance, or that cuts to hunger relief programs are the wrong move for California?

Of course no one is making me take the Hunger Challenge again this year, but to walk in someone else’s shoes has value and we can all use a little perspective sometimes. So here I am on the week before the Challenge begins calling on my training from 8th grade Home Ec (which should be a requirement) and too many episodes of Extreme Couponing to mentally prepare myself for the Monday 6/11 start.

Last year I took the Challenge with my mom, so we pooled our funds which allowed for bulk purchases of grains, plus more vegetables and coffee. This year it will be just me as a single woman on a SNAP(Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps) national average allotment of $4/day for 5 days (June 11-15). I will also have the added twist of caring for an international student who arrives on June 9th, who I am required to at least cook dinner for each night. Before I complain that I have to cook meals I can’t eat, I think of the various food-service workers who might need to use CalFresh benefits. That person who made a $10 lunch at Chipotle could very well be on CalFresh or the waitress whose income depends on tips may need help buying groceries for her family even while working full time. It may seem like a complicated issue, but to me, taking care of each other is the only way to go.

Back tomorrow with some budget menu, shopping and recipe planning tips.

If you would like to take the Hunger Challenge with Food Bank of Contra Costa staff and supporters, sign up on the Hunger Challenge page of the Food Bank website.