The Hunger Challenge: Does It Really Mimic Food-Stamp Living?

Categories: Talking Points
This week, San Franciscans such as Cooking with Amy's Amy Sherman and SFist editor Brock Keeling are taking the Hunger Challenge, an annual consciousness-raising event organized by the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks. During the week of September 11-17, they're eating on $4.72 per person per day -- the food budget that California gives food-stamp recipients.

SFoodie used to roll our eyes at consciousness-raising stunts like the homelessness awareness night at our liberal arts college, when a bunch of well-fed 20-year-olds slept on cardboard boxes in the quad, waking up awfully late so that everyone could see them struggling in the morning.

But blogs and Facebook have a way of changing the dynamic of something like the Hunger Challenge -- they help transform a personal experience into a shared one. So Sherman, in addition to describing her ultra-cheap kebabs, writes about the ignorance in ecofoodie circles about the existence of hunger in San Francisco. And SFoodie can't wait to read Keeling's account, well, because of this.

The event also brings out criticism that is just as thought-provoking, and just as much a part of the week, as the participants' blogs. KitchenMage's Beth Sheresh, who was on food stamps several decades ago, has written a series of posts about hunger challenges in Seattle and San Francisco. Make it more real, she challenges, by telling participants to give up their cars for the week or spend two days without any money left, surviving on crackers so your kid can eat. Scam a few cents in change so you can buy a gallon of gas. Try telling your toddler she can't have fresh berries on her cake for her birthday because you need toilet paper more. All without an end date circled on the calendar.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan, thanks very much for writing about our Hunger Challenge. There's absolutely no way this challenge can recreate what life is like for someone living on food stamps - but it does give people a taste of it. Thoughtful participants quickly realize how much more difficult it must be for people facing hunger and poverty with no end in sight.

Despite its imperfections, the Hunger Challenge has raised a lot of awareness about hunger in San Francisco - and TV coverage on CBS5 has helped people who didn't know where to turn for food assistance get aid. That alone has made it worthwhile. We've also come away with easy, low-budget recipes to share with our clients, and gotten ideas that have helped guide our food resources department to target important ingredients. All in all, some great results.

If you'd like to see the stories of real San Francisco Food Bank clients, you'll find them here:


This is great! My husband and I are trying something similar but not for such nobel reasons. Hats off to the bloggers and SF Weekly for covering this. Here is our experiment:

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