Assemblymember Yamada Retakes Hunger Challenge

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SACRAMENTO —Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) again partnered with local food banks in her district to highlight the problem of food insecurity as she took the “Hunger Challenge” June 3 to 7.

Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (Photo by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

This is the fifth consecutive year she has participated as a state legislator.

June is National Hunger Awareness Month and Yamada took up her annual challenge to live for one week on the nation’s average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) budget. This year, the allotment is $4.98 per day for five days, or $1.66 per meal, a temporary increase over previous years.

This federal program, known in California as CalFresh, is the subject of her blog describing the challenges of preparing tasty and nutritious meals on the same food budget as millions of other Americans.

According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over 2 million households in California have experienced food insecurity — defined as being unsure of where one’s next meal will come from. In the six counties represented by Assembly District 4 — Colusa, Lake, Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo — an estimated $105,750,000 in 100% federal benefits is lost because of underenrollment.

“Hunger is a daily reality for millions of Californians,” said Yamada. “Children, the elderly, the disabled, and students are the faces of hunger amidst plenty. While my annual hunger challenge lasts for just one week, far too many struggle with hunger every day.”

Yamada purchased the following five days’ worth of groceries using the $4.98 per day SNAP budget at her local Safeway on June 2: one loaf of wheat bread for 99 cents; one package of chicken thighs for $2.95; one package of brown rice for $1.79; one zucchini squash for 79 cents; three Roma tomatoes for $1.23; overripe bananas for 73 cents; one package of pasta for 99 cents; one jar of pasta sauce for 99 cents; one can of tuna for $1; three yogurts for $3; one package of American cheese for $1.99; one half-gallon of orange juice for $2.50; one pound of coffee for $3.99; one Odwalla bar at $1.

The total of her purchases was $23.94 with a reserve of 96 cents.

Despite the high rates of hunger among Americans, the House of Representatives recently passed a Farm Bill reauthorization that could cut $20 billion from SNAP/CalFresh over 10 years, limiting access to the program for millions of Americans. Sequestration, the automatic federal spending cuts imposed in the absence of a federal budget deal, will make food insecurity even more acute for California’s elderly as hundreds of thousands of dollars have been cut from senior nutritional programs.

“We should remind those in Washington about the tough decisions working families are forced to make every day,” Yamada said. “Parents are choosing between rent and food for their children; seniors are choosing between food and medicine.”

Yamada’s blog can be found on the Solano and Contra Costa County Food Bank website: www.foodbankccs.org/index.php.

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