The 7 Day Food Stamp Challengeby Paula Lomazzi
Would you be able to eat on $4.90 for one whole day? The Sacramento Hunger Coalition asked this question and challenged Sacramentans to try to do just that for one week in November. Participants weren’t allowed to eat anything but the food within their budget, except for certain condiments. The purpose of the challenge was to show what an average Cal Fresh recipient must face every day, since the amount of food stamps they are allotted averages $4.90 per day. Cal Fresh is the program that used to be called “food stamps”, and are now Electronic Benefits Transfer cards.

Around 150 people took the challenge including Councilmember Kevin McCarty and Fox 40 news
Cooking Demo by Aiden of his quinoa recipe
anchor Stephanie Cruz. Several bloggers documented their efforts and meals. At a press conference on day 6 of the challenge, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg talked about the underutilization of the food bank and food stamps from people that may go without food. Aiden, a 10 year old chef, offered a cooking demonstration of one of his creations, a quinoa meal that would be affordable to a food stamp recipient (four servings for under $4.00). Councilmember Kevin McCarty, though he didn’t participate the full week, one day he bought and prepared a meal for him and his three children for his daily allotment of $15.00, which included a chicken, tortillas and fruit. Some of the Sacramento Housing Alliance staff participated for the whole week, and even had price stickers on the fruit bowl in the kitchen so they would easily be able to add in the costs.

The object of the challenge was not to “win” by figuring out how to eat marvelously on a poverty income. It was to see how easy it was to “lose” or not easily stay within the budget. And some of the more serious participants may have learned what it’s like to be hungry at the end of the day.

The challenge also brought attention to hunger in Sacramento. There are 251,060 people living in Sacramento County that are considered food insecure. With the cost of living and unemployment, more and more people do not know where their next meal will come from.

The US Conference of Mayors just released the Hunger and Homelessness Survey: A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in American Cities. The survey found that emergency food requests have increased by an average of 22%, while the average budget for purchasing emergency food for distribution only increased 11%. Projections estimated a further gap between the demand and ability to meet the demand in the upcoming year. As of July, according to the report, nearly 46.7 million people were receiving benefits, up 1.3 million from last year’s participation.

Many Sacramentans that must skip meals or eat less expensive, less nutritious foods may be unaware that they are eligible for Cal Fresh or free groceriesfrom food banks. Those that do go hungry should be encouraged to seek help. Sacramento Hunger Coalition, a project of Sacramento Housing Alliance, is striving to end hunger in Sacramento. More information can be found on the website