1177 – A Number to live by?

7 Feb
The mystery unravels...

The mystery unravels…

1177 is a heptagonal number.

1177 is the maximal number of regions into which 48 lines divide a plane.

1177 was the year in which the Peace Treaty of Venice was signed by Emperor Frederik I & Pope Alexander III.

1177 is also $11.77 which is the total amount of food stamp money I have left for the last full week of my challenge.


A lot of the support that the Foodbank and our 300 member nonprofit agencies in the county provide is to people who reach a similar kind of situation, typically later in the calendar month. Bills have been paid, money spent and there ain’t nuthin’ in the cupboard.

This is out of date, it's already over 300

This is out of date, it’s already over 300

I’m lucky, because I still have a good amount of food in the cupboard. Here is a photo of what will probably be the final significant food purchasing I will do. Someone play ‘Taps’ on a trumpet as a tear drops silently onto my depleted EBT card:

The Last Shop - An emotional moment

The Last Shop – An emotional moment

I went shopping for vegetables, rice cakes, yoghurt, fish, canned tuna. Straightforward stuff. No more licorice allsorts for me, sunny Jim.

I have still been getting by on preparing large quantities and freezing it. I made a particularly good pasta sauce with a ton of fresh vegetables pureed into it, including kale from the garden (the perfect way for us non-kale groupies to consume the nutritious little weed…)

Never in my life did I imagine I would be posting pictures of kale from my garden...how did I get here??

Never in my life did I imagine I would be posting pictures of kale from my garden…how did I get here?? Why did my life travel down a pathway like this?

It was a great way of me using up all the cauliflower and carrots and onions and other vegetables that I had received from distributions, but which were about to go off if I did not act. I have also benefitted from some great salad stuff from my garden:

You'd feel all dry and tired if someone kept you in a bag for days on end. Which is why the greens from my garden are bursting with color and freshness.

You’d feel all dry and tired if someone kept you in a bag for days on end. Which is why the greens from my garden are bursting with color and freshness.

Yet despite all the Rachel Ray moments, there has been a lot of monotony. Like the last of the Chili below:

No it's not an outtake from the 'Walking Dead,' that's my dinner!

No it’s not an outtake from the ‘Walking Dead,’ that’s my dinner!

At this point in my study, I thought it was time for an expert to weigh in with some comments on what I’ve been up to in my challenge. The Foodbank is lucky to have an experienced dietician, Serena Fuller PhD, RD (and doubtless enough other acronyms to fill up a twitter post) on our staff. Serena’s job is to be our Health Evaluation and Education Manager, and to help us keep our community healthy.

Serena Fuller

Serena Fuller

I have tried to be a good boy, and I remained hopeful that Serena would not rap my knuckles for nutritional misbehavior and so it largely proved. I have certainly made major improvements over the last six months in terms of what I am eating, how much exercise I am doing, as well as giving up drinking and trying to moderate my McConnells and black licorice and Cadbury’s Flake (a British chocolate bar) addictions.


Serena did encourage me to look at my fiber intake. Serena explained that Americans in general have poor fiber intake, with the average being 12 grams a day, when adult males need 30 grams and females 25g. I have been using a lot of different beans as a way of getting fiber, but have not been making use of oatmeal as I could. It can be cheap bought in bulk and used in baking or sprinkling half a cup in a sauce so that you never know it is there.


Our conversation mainly focused on the challenges that our client families face living on a small amount of money for food, year in, year out. A major danger is the monotonous diet I have sometimes grappled with in my month. Also the fact that people are drawn to prepared foods, which at the cheaper end have a high sodium content and poor nutritional makeup.

The way to get by is by being able to buy and cook and store in bulk. There are a number of barriers to doing this: having the skills and confidence, the time to cook, the place to cook, the utensils to cook with (large soup pot, slow cooker, blender etc) and then a place to store both ingredients and completed meals. These can be huge barriers with many clients living in a hotel or sharing a garage. There is simply nowhere to store or save things.

The Foodbank is focused on helping provide the skills and confidence to encourage families to take the steps to equip themselves to be able to look after themselves like this.

There are also good resources out there. Serena suggests checking out:

She also says that in any State the University Extensions are great resources for classes on cooking, nutrition and food preservation with a focus on the low-income client.
And of course there are those of us who need the Web MD to tell us what to do. So you could check out:


I am hoping I will be able to get through my last week, because I will also be accessing services for those who might be homeless or living in their car or otherwise without a kitchen.

If you want to see a grown man try and defrost chili with a car cigarette lighter, stay tuned for my report

2 Responses to “1177 – A Number to live by?”

  1. eatinginsb February 7, 2013 at 4:28 am #

    I have really enjoyed reading these, and am sad to see they will end soon. I was going to post on here about how happy I was to see the many organic seeds at Catholic Charities today. But right now after reading about how this is your last week, I feel sort of unmotivated. I am GRATEFUL. Just being real and taking a moment to pout (at least I am being honest if not juvenile), because you have an end. You don’t have to live like this for another month(s.) And you had choice in what you eat. I do have to say…in the positive and there are many to be found in the generosity and effort of this city – in eating from pantries since Mid December I have eaten more organic foods and fish than ever. Not because I didn’t want too, but they were not in my budget. I suppose those items are higher priced and not bought as often and end up in Food Pantries. It makes me sad though on days like yesterday when my son cried out how come you never buy fruit anymore as he was looking at the empty fruit bowl. Yesterday I did buy some food. First in a while. I wanted fruit. I wanted vegetables. But they are gone fast and don’t fill us up. I bought Almond milk, polka kielbasa which is totally rare and kind of gross but I thought we could have it for breakfast and dinner and my son likes it, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, crackers, corn tortillas and eggs. The cream cheese and crackers were because my kids haven’t had much to snack on…just fun food. Like you know from your licorice sometimes having something fun around is important. I get fun food sometimes at the pantry…it just depends on how well stocked they are that particular day. One aspect I think you may not grasp is the amount of stress involved in being poor. I do work almost full time. You might think why does this woman not focus all her time on getting another job. That sounds easy and I tell it to myself. The stress of food along with rent and car repairs and hoping I won’t be pulled over for expired tags because it won’t pass smog and having to tell my son we can’t afford little league, and selling things on craigslist to get gas money for another few days and praying and hoping – well it all takes a lot of energy. That sounds dumb. I know. And doing the math figuring that if I do work full time then I will lose my childcare grant and then be even worse off. I just made it in 2012. We were ok. December was hard because of Christmas. But then new payroll taxes occurred and now I make less. But we should be getting a tax refund check in late spring. Whew.. OK that was long winded. Back to the beginning. I am thankful we live in SB that DOES provide food. My family is not starving. We, like you experienced, have a monotonous diet. Actually tonight I had salmon 🙂 Thank you CC. That you are providing information about cooking and nutrition. I have yet to encounter those…but know they are available. I am a bit of a picky eater if I can be…no GMO’s, not processed. I try do make our meals,but also have to just eat what is provided too. In ending, Erik try heating the chili on the engine 🙂 Not from experience…just sounds faster!

  2. debby February 9, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    We are at the start of week 2 on our food stamp challenge. I am afriad we might run out of money before month 😦 however I have put back many things leftover to help fill in the gap. I have enjoyed following you this past month. Hate to see it end as I am learning so much!!

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