My Month is Done!

2 Mar

erik-talkin-talks-food-security-challenge20170228164641_5989899_ver1-0_640_360Like Check out the above interview on the morning show by clicking this link.

Like a paroled prisoner blinking in the unaccustomed sunlight as the gates of the prison creak open, I am finishing my Food Security Challenge. Instead, the gates of the grocery store are opening and I am buying without having to plan what the ramifications of that purchase will be on my financial condition for the rest of the month.

I didn’t go crazy, but I did buy my ultimate treat, an almond croissant from Renaud’s Patisserie. I don’t need to explain the necessity of this for those in the know, but like McConnell’s Salted Caramel Chip, these are my two major vices (that is in the food category).

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Don’t even think about it.

In my last post I was two days to go and five apples to spread over it. After recklessly bobbing for three apples on day one, this left me with two for my final day. I was getting quite a few rumblings and was drinking a lot of water.

But I got through it. Just a single month, not even one with 30 days. Imagine having to do that month in and month out.

So what did I learn?

screenshotThat with all the food literacy skills in the world, that without enough money for healthy food, it is a real struggle to stay healthy. Food stamps alone are not enough to get by with. It is vital to have the food programs that the Foodbank and our partner agencies run to provide additional produce and groceries. Otherwise the emergency rooms would be overflowed with those suffering from the negative results of poor diet – diseases of under and over nutrition, uncontrolled diabetes – the list is long.

Thanks to everyone who supported and followed the Food Security Challenge. It makes me proud to live in a community that cares so much.

See you next year? Uh…I think I’m going to give it a rest for a year or two. But you can try!

 

The Cupboard is Bare

27 Feb

Two days until the end of my Food Security Challenge and the fun is well and truly over! My money is all spent, the food all eaten – except for five apples and a handful of slightly stale kitten cookies.

img_2481Some people eat only apples to have a cleanse of their digestive system. For me, I have no choice in the matter. Of course, I did have a choice earlier. I could have just bought unhealthy food with empty calories and have probably not run out of food by the end. I could have subsisted on white rice and white pasta and cheap pastries.

My belly would have been filled, but filled with junk that would have made me less healthy than when I started the month. I would have been saving money on food to spend many hundreds of times more on medical care in the future.

This past week I have had the opportunity to visit a couple of the Foodbank’s 300 plus member agencies and programs – ones who specialize in working with seniors. I have been highlighting the needs of seniors in our community during this year’s challenge and these agencies do great work with seniors.

Food from the Heart, run by Sharon Byrne and whose board chair is Kelly Onnen, make and deliver meals to both seniors and those recovering from surgery or illness. Once a week they assemble at Trinity Lutheran Church and work culinary miracles, creating meals and supplemental food to allow it to be stretched out to multiple meals.

img_2387It was painful for me to see all those rows of delicious food boxes. They even offered me a sample, but I stayed strong to keep to my challenge. Tempters!

I also paid a visit to Pilgrim Terrace, an assisted living facility where the Foodbank has run a Brown Bag senior food delivery for many years. I got a chance to talk with Karen and Joanna about how they make ends meet.

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They have a lot of soups and salads and the fresh vegetables, dry goods and protein items that they get from the Foodbank make all the difference in being able to stretch out dollars. They also have a wonderful lunch program which has made a huge difference in the resident’s ability to interact and make friends.

This also meant one more delicious looking meal that I could not eat…

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I got a chance to meet their ED, John Jeffries and Jenn Skinner the Ops Director and also to take a look at their fabulous tower gardens that provide salad ingredients, which they use in their own meals and sell to local restaurants to subsidize the cost of the lunch program. You’ve got to be creative if you’re going to stay healthy on a fixed income.

Two more days to go. Let’s find out if an apple a day will really keep the doctor away.

Welcome to the Department of Food Security

21 Feb

slide02Food insecurity. It’s a confusing term, and one that I’ve never liked. Yet it’s the term that best describes what the Foodbank faces from many thousands of seniors and families in the County. We are not facing starvation, and hunger is not the right word either. Hunger just describes a symptom. We are hungry, and if we solve the problem today, we will still be hungry tomorrow.

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slide05Food insecurity means that a household or individual is not able to guarantee that they will have enough healthful food to get them through the month. Like me in my Food Security Challenge, they might start out eating well at the beginning of the month, and then as rent, transport, medical and other bills take their chunk, people may be looking at an amount tinier than I am living on to be able to put towards food. (Because food is usually the thing that suffers, the thing that can be replaced with inferior or unhealthy alternatives without the body complaining…at first.

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We may thing that SB County is well off compared to some places, but we are also way down the list of food secure counties in California (Out of 58 counties there are only 11 with worse food insecurity than us). Ouch.

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Food insecurity is faced by many seniors as well as by so many working families in our county. They earn too much (but still a tiny amount) to qualify for food stamps and so rely on Foodbank and member agency programs to supplement the food they buy for themselves.

Imagine I am a senior (not so hard with all this grey – I keep telling myself I’m a silver fox, but even so…) and I don’t have enough good food that week. If I collapse because of low blood sugar and have to go to the emergency room or am admitted, the cost skyrockets when it could have been solved with a little healthy food and some education.

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Our role at the Foodbank is to keep people healthy and make sure they have the skills and ability to make healthy food choices even if they are struggling. This makes common sense. If you eat bad food you get less healthy and can work less. If you work less you can only afford bad food and so…the downward spiral continues.

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Speaking of ugly words, you have to hand it to ‘presenteeism’ which describes students or workers who are there, but not really ‘there.’

We live in a country that can easily provide enough healthy food for everyone. Let’s make that investment and save ourselves a fortune in the future.

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As to the Food Security Challenge, I am down to my last $26 with a week to go. That’s $3.71 per day. My supplies are dwindling so this last week is going to be a big struggle. I could end up on the Kitten Cookies and apples diet.

Stay tuned to find out.

 

 

One Night Free from Food Jail

16 Feb

When I agreed to undertake my third food challenge, it was with the understanding that I was only going to utilize the equivalent of food I could buy with my food stamp allowance (as opposed to what I could get at additional Foodbank distributions). This meant I would probably be living on half the food I did last time.

However, I did negotiate the luxury of a single ‘night off’ from my challenge – Valentine’s Day evening. The last two times I undertook the challenge (both during February), I could not enjoy a Valentine’s Day dinner with my wife, Mari.

This year I decided to ensure that I at least keep in the running for the Marriage Security Challenge, by going out on a nice romantic dinner with my beloved.

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The Happy Couple. Watch out, Erik is reaching for your dinner, so he can eat it tomorrow!

We went to the Scarlet Begonia on State Street – so all you people who are convinced that you caught me cheating, I hereby wave my Get Out of Food Jail card.

After two weeks of virtue, I decided to go for the most sinful option on the menu – the rack of lamb. Forgive me little lamb, the food stamps made me do it.

It did bring home to me how lucky I was to have to the option of a delicious meal that ended up costing almost exactly what my whole month’s allowance of food stamps were. I feel guilty just typing that.

Now after my wild night, I am back on the (chuck) wagon and have about $ 37 left to make it through two weeks. I will have to focus some dream time on remember that meal – as well as my lovely companion, of course!

As I have suggested previously, it is the monotony of eating multiple meals of the same thing which can get to you over a period of time. And because this challenge is focusing on seniors, it is a reminder that loss of appetite and desire to eat can be a key indicator of poor health in an aging population.

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Chili – Meal #1 = Yummy, Meal #2 = Even Better, Meal #3 = Hello Old Friend, Meal#4 = I think we should see other meals…

Remember, the average recipient of our Brown Bag program is a 70 year old woman living on a fixed income of $900 per month to cover accommodation, medical, food and transport.

That increases my gratitude and my desire to ensure that all the seniors who need help in our community get enough good food to keep them healthy.

I know we can do it.