0 Days Left, 0 Dollars Left

1 Mar

This is over. I solemnly spent my last twelve bucks in a wild binge at the supermarket, buying blueberries and extra fruit and even pre-cooked rice, because I DIDN’T CARE!

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My challenge was a success in that I found a way to stay healthy on a tiny amount of money ($6.46 per day plus whatever food I could get from a Foodbank or member agency distributions). Does this mean that the money provided for food stamps (Cal Fresh) is sufficient?

No way. Even though I spent over half my money on fresh produce and cooked for myself, my diet became very monotonous. If you cook up a huge pot of vegetarian chili you have to eat it. I was so busy with work and childcare that I would often eat what I had just frozen, because I found I didn’t have time to do more than reheat.

The social aspect was also crippling. I hold a lot of meetings in coffee bars, and I do a lot of work in them. But to buy myself the right of entry, I would had to have spent my entire days money.

No Coffee, no entree

No Coffee, no entry

Food stamps are no replacement for jobs that pay enough to feed and support a family. Many people on food stamps are working multiple jobs with few benefits, having to make painful choices between spending money on food or on some other necessary expense. Yet a common misconception is of fraud or spongers. (The fraud rate is less than 1%).

That’s why the Foodbank advocates at the State and National level to protect these benefits from being cut, which is a yearly threat. We also work to provide over 9 million pounds of supplemental food to families and seniors that prevent them from slipping into malnutrition.

Anyone could do what I did for a month (and many have no choice). The real challenge is for us to build communities where a living wage will prevent people being in a nightmarish double-bind of working all hours at a job yet still relying on ‘charity.’

Living-wage

Meaningfully enough, my final meal of the challenge was a bowl of soup that my mom made for me. Homemade lentil and spinach soup and delicious. It was a cheat, because the food didn’t come from my food stamp money, but I say so what, if your mom can’t give you a bowl of soup, who can??

Yum, yum, thank you mum

Yum, yum, thank you mum

Thanks to everyone who has offered encouragement to me this month, it is very kind. Thanks also to the people who left not so encouraging comments on various sites. The purpose of the FSC was to stimulate thought and discussion on a big area of challenge for our country, and I succeeded in doing that, which was the real point in eating all those bowls of chili.

If you want to support the Foodbank’s continued work to build food security in SBC, you can donate at: donate.foodbanksbc.org and check out our work or volunteer on our website.

Thanks!

I’ve saved myself, now how are we going to save everyone else in Santa Barbara County?

28 Feb
I don't think I'm alone in all this.

I don’t think I’m alone in all this.

When you are the recipient (or mock recipient in my case) of federal benefits aimed at the 45 million Americans living below the poverty line, you generally don’t have the time or energy to look at the big picture, about how we might improve the health and outlook of those struggling millions.

Too bad, because I have been eating healthily this past four weeks and I DO have the energy to pull out a bigger picture, or at least one that extends to how we can make the food system work better within Santa Barbara County.

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This post is not about taking on the Federal benefits machine in order to preserve the modest food stamp benefits. (Although I am sitting on a plane to DC as I write, to attend an anti-hunger and lobbying meeting to do just that). Rather I am talking about how food is produced, processed, distributed, consumed and disposed of in SB County.

The Foodbank has partnered with fellow nonprofit, the Community Environmental Council (CEC) and two foundations, Orfalea Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation to work with a wide range of local people with an interest in the food system to create the first comprehensive plan for how to improve access, justice, sustainability, economic development and environmental health as it relates to SB County. And as we are in the top 1% of agricultural producing counties in America, if we’re going to bolster the economy and create jobs, its going to come from food.

It's all connected.

It’s all connected.

We have farmers, politicians, members of the business and education communities, experts and regular folk like you or me, and the exciting part of the process is that we want to hear what you have to say. Check out the information about countywide listening sessions at the bottom of this post.

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Sigrid Wright, Deputy Director of Community Environmental Council

Along with Sharyn Main from the SB Foundation and Barbara Andersen and Kathleen DeChadenedes from Orfalea, my non-profit partner in crime (healthy, sustainable crime) on the Food Action Plan is Sigrid Wright, Deputy Director of CEC, who is not only doing a great job in helping to make this plan a reality, but is also joining me on the Food Security Challenge for a week. So thanks to Sigrid for risking the tummy rumbles and also to Ernesto Paredes, Executive Director of Easy Lift, who also did a week on the food security challenge last week, and shared his experiences on Facebook. It’s great that these two have stepped up and provided the type of walk-the-talk encouragement that is a big help. Let’s face it, folks the ice bucket challenge is chilly but it’s over in two seconds.

"Would it be okay if I ate this red flower?" -Ernesto Paredes, Executive Director of Easy Lift

“Would it be okay if I ate this red flower?” -Ernesto Paredes, Executive Director of Easy Lift

Here is the info about the listening sessions. Please attend and tell us your ideas, and tell your friends too.

People listening as well as talking! That's a novelty you'd be crazy to pass up.

People listening as well as talking! That’s a novelty you’d be crazy to pass up.

Download version of flyer: Food Action Plan — Listening Session

One Week to go and I’m swearing off Chili for life

24 Feb

I have a week to go on my Food Security Challenge and I feel relieved I picked a month with 28 days to live on $6.47 a day! I have $33.89 left of my $194 monthly allotment as a single person. (Which I am for the purpose of this challenge as the rest of the family has wisely declined to get involved this time.

Mrs. Talkin declining involvement in the festivities

Mrs. Talkin declining involvement in the festivities

My weekly allowance is $48.50, so I am down about 25% on where I should be this week – although I still have some of my monthly items left.

Food from Healthy School Pantry

Food from Healthy School Pantry

I am in this situation not because of my virtue and good sense, but because I had access to additional food from two of the Foodbank’s food programs (The Healthy School Pantry in IV in week one and Foodbank member agency Grace Lutheran’s pantry in Week 3). The value of the food I walked away with was about $40 from the IV pantry and $38 from Grace Lutheran). Between these two, they have been a lifesaver, otherwise I would have spent all my money and would need to be looking for free meals at the Rescue Mission or elsewhere.

I’ve been learning a great deal about how to keep healthy with little money for food. Firstly I had a kind of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ situation as regards oatmeal, which I loathed at the beginning of the month, but which I now love and look forward to each morning. Of course I have given its essential wallpaper glue texture a makeover with lots of nuts and dried and fresh fruit, but it shows that a lifetime of culinary prejudice can be overridden. I have also become a daily consumer of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower) and cabbage. All are cheap here, and all help me bulk out my diet in a healthy manner.

Chili Week 1

Chili Week 1

The key challenges are related to variety, in that it is very challenging to have enough variety when you are eating leftovers of a large meal you made (so as to stop the vegetables from going bad) for two days and then freezing the rest. It takes time, energy and money to keep variety in your culinary life. The other major problem area is the social nature of food. Ever since a caveman invited his friends around for some wooly mammoth appetizers, you need to give as well as receive food. And if you are always receiving instead of giving, because of lack of money, it makes you turn inward and remain healthy in other ways. Let’s see how I fair in my final week. Just don’t ask me to eat chili ever again…

Chili Week 2 with added Farro

Chili Week 2 with added Farro

Chili Week 3: Defrosting frozen blocks

Chili Week 3: Defrosting frozen blocks

It Takes A Child to Feed A Village

17 Feb
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Foodbank bling must be earned!

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County feeds a lot of kids. 35% of our 140,000 unduplicated people served every year are 17 or under. What you may not know is that kids themselves do a lot of work to make sure this happens. Second Saturday of every month is family day at the Foodbank (both north and south county facilities), where kids can bring their parents to the Foodbank for a quick 90 minute service project including a tour of the warehouse. It’s a lot of fun and you get to grips with enormous quantities of food.

Lili and Mia up to their necks in oranges

Lili and Mia up to their necks in oranges

This weekend I brought two of my own brood to our Santa Maria Warehouse to join in the fun. Lili (17) and Mia (3.5) came to work hard. We had to slip Mia in as she was under the minimum age of 6, but she worked hard as these photos attest.

Mia auditioning for the role of Cinderella

Mia auditioning for the role of Cinderella

Foodbank Board Vice Chair, Jim Stollberg and his wife Sammi are the dynamic force behind our North County family days, and you can see Jim below giving families a briefing before the plastic gloves came out.

Foodbank Vice-Chair of the Board Jim Stollberg tells it like it is

Foodbank Vice-Chair of the Board Jim Stollberg tells it like it is

This weekend’s activities were sorting and repacking oranges from the large bins we get in to more manageable milk crate sized containers which are picked up by out 330 member agencies. The other activity was labelling small packets of pasta that previous volunteers had repacked into smaller packets from bulk.

The Corey family label packets of pasta

The Corey family label packets of pasta

We had over thirty people show up, families from Santa Maria and Santa Ynez as well as from Vandenberg AFB. Parents were thrilled that their kids were learning about giving back to the community and kids got the chance to check out the Foodbank’s world famous bike blender for making healthy smoothies.

Get on, pedal and slurp

Get on, pedal hard, and then…

And then slurp!

Slurp!

It was a great way for me to celebrate the half-way mark of my Food Security Challenge to know that there were so many caring families wanting to make sure their friends and neighbors had enough to eat.

And thanks to Dave and Becky Corey of Core Wines for their generous donation!

I wanted a hamburger, but i'll take a check!

Becky Corey of Core Wines. I wanted a hamburger, but i’ll take a check!

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