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!


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.’


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.


2 Responses to “0 Days Left, 0 Dollars Left”

  1. Sandra Lee March 28, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

    HI…Found your blog and followed it with great interest. I am a senior whose entire income is $794 a month. My Cal-Fresh is $49 per. Between the Food Bank, the 99 Cents store and a friend who includes me on her Costco card, I am able to feed myself but it is difficult as you can imagine. How much less did you have to declare in order to get $200?

    I hasten to add that I am a volunteer at the Food Bank because if I get, I try to give. I am on-call at the warehouse, I work at the Mesa Garden, I have applied to be a volunteer at the Westside Center where I plan to go weekly and am signing up for the Backyard Bounty group this week. I am delighted to be able to do so. I was very active in many volunteer efforts in SB in the 70’s and 80’s. I am baaaaack and am so grateful that I have the health to continue to contribute to my community.

    Thank you for all the amazing work that the Food Bank does. Hunger in Santa Barbara is real. In the midst of plenty…of endless stories about organic food, restaurants…from farm to table…wine tastings, and my favorite…fundraisers whose tickets are from $50 to more than a hundred your story was illuminating for many, I am sure.
    Sandra Lee

    • Erik Talkin March 29, 2015 at 7:35 pm #

      Thanks for your comments and support Sandra. We appreciate your presence in the community.

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