Assemblymember Yamada Takes on ‘Hunger Challenge’


SACRAMENTO — June is National Hunger Awareness Month, and with the Legislature facing a looming state budget deadline, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) is taking the “Hunger Challenge” for the fourth consecutive year – her third time as a state legislator.

Mariko Yamada

Hunger Challenge participants pledge to live for one week on the nation’s average weekly food stamp benefit of $4.33 per day, or just $1.48 per meal (the national average for a meal meeting USDA guidelines is $2.54). Yamada is blogging about her experiences while taking the challenge.

“The challenge is reminder to me that for millions of Americans, hunger is a daily reality,” said Yamada. “While I struggle for only a week, far too many who cannot make ends meet face going hungry every day. Those living in ‘food deserts’ – often students, the disabled, and seniors – are particularly affected by hunger.”

The rules are simple: Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner spending only $1.48 a meal for five days or $22 total. The challenge is whether healthy and tasty meals can be prepared on the grocery budget of millions of Americans receiving food assistance. Yamada began her challenge Monday and continues until Friday. She spent $21.34 on the following food items:

1 pound ground turkey, $3.99 (50 percent discount due to June 5 expiration date)

1 extra firm Tofu Lite, $1.99

1 can chicken corn chowder, $1.29

1 can black beans, $0.79

1 can tuna, $0.99

1 four-pack yogurt, $1.49

1 six-pack Top Ramen, $0.89

1 loaf 12-grain bread, $2.49

1 red leaf lettuce, $0.79

3 bananas, $0.62

2 tomatoes, $0.52

1 package green beans, $2.00

1 can organic coffee, $3.49

13 items total, $21.34

The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) helps feed more than 2 million low-income Californians, more than half of whom are children and 8 percent of whom are 60 years of age or older. However, according to the Hunger in America 2010 study, 6 million Californians remain food insecure.

California’s Food Assistance Program, or CalFresh, is the state’s top nutrition and anti-hunger program and distributes SNAP benefits to state beneficiaries. As the country’s economic crisis continues, the number of people receiving CalFresh benefits has greatly increased. Still, according to federal statistics, California has the lowest participation rate of all the states and loses $4.9 billion in federal funds because of the state’s barriers to enrollment.

“In the face of yet another California budget crisis that disproportionately affects those with the lowest incomes and greatest need, we should encourage all who are eligible to enroll in this federally funded program,” said Yamada.



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