Friday, June 7, 2013

Assemblymember Yamada - Hunger Challenge Day 5

Hunger Challenge – Day 5
By Assemblymember Mariko Yamada

Filing my final entry for the 2013 Hunger Challenge, Day 5.  Having participated for the past five consecutive years as a state legislator, and previous years as a county supervisor and at times as an “average citizen” over my almost forty years of public service, what is striking to me is the constancy of two dynamics:  continuing hunger in America, and the consistent mischaracterization of those who depend upon SNAP benefits.

Is there hunger in America?  Yes.  The facts are incontrovertible:  

Has SNAP been an effective program?  I say yes:

For last night’s dinner, I finished the brown rice and remaining chicken thigh, and scavenged some of the zucchini that I cooked with the spaghetti and pasta sauce made on Monday night.  Drank a little bit of remaining juice and coffee for my liquids.  

Breakfast on this last day was coffee only,  and lunch one of two remaining overripe bananas and the last yogurt.  With today’s temperatures soaring past 100 degrees, I am drinking tap water to stay hydrated.
What I’ve missed most this whole week is… dessert!  People who know me understand.

So, as I finish my 2013 Hunger Challenge, I will finish up the last of the spaghetti and have some wheat toast, and end with that single Odwalla bar that I bought for a week end treat.   I will have perhaps 3 slices of bread leftover from the week.

I want to thank all who participated in the 2013 Hunger Challenge with me, or who read about our experiences.  In doing so, I hope that there were some aspects of the issues that were new or involved additional thinking.

Let’s all recommit ourselves to ending hunger and poverty in America by reducing waste and strengthening the economy.  Thank you to all who do this work every day!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Assemblymember Yamada - Hunger Challenge Day 4

Hunger Challenge – Day 4
By Assemblymember Mariko Yamada

Heading into the final day and half of this year’s challenge, there is a sense of “weariness”—not to be confused with “mindfulness”—about food.   We are literally barraged with daily food imagery—in advertisements that come in  the day’s mail; television and radio commercials; restaurant promotions; the previously noted Capitol receptions; even social media posts from our families and friends. Voluntarily limiting oneself to the groceries available on the 2013 CalFresh budget of $24.90 for five days requires both physical and mental discipline. 

This morning, I opened a can of tuna, and lacking the funds for mayonnaise, opened one of the last two yogurt cups I had purchased on Sunday evening to skim off the top layer (strawberry fruit-on-the-bottom!) as the dressing for a tuna fish sandwich.  The flavors definitely clashed but one must make do with the ingredients at hand.  Upon tasting this concoction, decided to mask the hint of strawberry with a cut-up tomato, and made a tuna-tomato-on wheat bread-American cheese slice melt to take in for Thursday’s lunch.  

For some reason today, I was extra-hungry and have already consumed the sandwich and an extra cheese slice intended for an afternoon snack.  Not sure if this is the cumulative effect of three previous days of having food to eat—but not feeling full since Monday.

I will drink home-brewed coffee the rest of today as I head to my District Office in Woodland.  Not sure what I will have for dinner this evening—options are narrowing, similar to what CalFresh recipients face at the end of each month.  The truism that “our food ran out before the month did” is a reality facing millions of Californians.  Please think about that at the end of June.

Final day tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Assemblymember Yamada – Hunger Challenge Day 3

Hunger Challenge – Day 3
By Assemblymember Mariko Yamada

Got home Tuesday about 8 p.m. after a fabulous event in honor of labor leader and civil rights icon, Dolores Huerta, recognizing her for 60 years of organizing workers and standing up for justice.  What an honor to be in her presence.

Food and drink were plentiful at this hosted event—one among multiple such receptions that occur morning, noon, and night around the Capitol. 

Fortunately, I have had a “no eating, no drinking” rule in place for my entire tenure in the Legislature to avoid a gift reporting requirement, so am accustomed to passing up the usual delectable spreads that are always a part of such festivities.  However, because I had only eaten a small lunch, the pleasant food aromas were harder to ignore…

After downing a glass of orange juice, again to quell the low-blood sugar feeling I came home with, I made half a package of brown rice with the chicken stock I had saved from Monday night’s cooking.  Dinner was one of the chicken thighs (I now have one whole one left from the original four) over brown rice with a cut-up tomato.   Made a cup of French Vanilla coffee to top off the meal…and the sweet taste of an overripe banana was my dessert.

This morning, I made my thermos of coffee, a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, and tucked another overripe banana in for an afternoon snack.  Will likely have spaghetti and toast for dinner tonight after attending another reception—one where I will be receiving a recognition for work on helping the unemployed!—skipping the lovely spread I am sure will be there…

Day Four tomorrow!

Assemblymember Markio Yamada's Hunger Challenge 2013 - Days 1 & 2

We invite you to join us as we follow Assemblymember Mariko Yamada as she participates for the fifth time in the annual Hunger Challenge.  She will live on a food budget of $4.98 per day, the average amount that an individual in California receives for CalFresh.

Hunger Challenge – Days 1 and 2
By Assemblymember Mariko Yamada
Day 1
Skeptics have asked me, “Why are you doing this—AGAIN?”…
The reasons are simple:  hunger in America persists in the richest and most powerful nation on earth.  And the assault on feeding Americans—by cutting the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $20 Billion over the next ten years has been eloquently questioned by none other than Paul Krugman in the New York Times:

Going into this, my fifth annual Hunger Challenge, I have learned “survival shopping”, looking for sales and engaging in couponing.  This year’s weekly budget of $24.90 is actually a relief over prior years when the daily amount was just a little over $3 per day.   For me, coffee is the foundation of my food pyramid, and in earlier challenges, I had to forewarn my co-workers that I would be “off the juice” for five days since coffee was unaffordable.  Fortunately, this year, the daily budget of $4.98 couple with a coffee sale and a $2.00 off coupon snagged me a 1-pound bag of storebrand French Vanilla ground coffee.

I am pleased to once again partner with Food Banks in my district, to call attention to hunger amidst plenty during June, Hunger Awareness Month.  Remember that many of the long-term unemployed, children, students, and seniors, regularly face food insecurity.  For me today, my thermos of home-brewed coffee, along with a grilled cheese sandwich on wheat bread and an overripe banana is food that will carry me through to dinnertime.
More tomorrow.

Day 2
With no Monday evening meetings, I was able to focus on cooking for the week.  Usually, dinner is a fast-grab from among two or three favorite restaurants, a luxury out-of-reach for most CalFresh recipients (although there IS a little-known restaurant program:

I boiled the package of chicken, prepared the whole box of angel hair pasta (which turned out to be a mistake—too much food!), and divided the noodles in half to prepare the week’s dinner of spaghetti with tomato-basil pasta sauce, and chicken chow mein with zucchini.  Had a glass of orange juice to quell the low-blood sugar feeling I had while cooking.  I had a good serving of vegetarian and a piece of American cheese spaghetti and a couple slices of wheat bread for dinner, and felt full.  The CalFresh budget did not allow for one of my other favorite foods—dessert.  I did miss my usual sweet ending of my evening meal.

Lunch today was a serving of the other pasta dish—chicken/zucchini chow mein.  Brought a blueberry yogurt for dessert J No breakfast today—my habit anyway.  Drank most of my thermos-full of home-brewed coffee.  Have had a full day of Senate committee bill presentation, water hearing and Caucus lunch (where those who knew me from previous sessions understood what I was up to by bringing my lunch) and will head to Veterans Affairs Committee this afternoon and a (non-eating, non-drinking) reception tonight hosted by the Latino Legislative Caucus.

Day 3 tomorrow—this year seems easier than all previous years!

Friday, February 15, 2013

February's Volunteer of the Month: Zeke

For the Month of February, it is with great pleasure we recognize Esequiel “Zeke” Montoya as ourVolunteer of the Month. Zeke has been volunteering with the Food Bank of Yolo County (FBYC) since October and has volunteered 100.5 hours.

Zeke became involved with FBYC when he dropped by the office one day for some information. Since that day he has worked with our various programs and even served as a lead for our Holiday Basket Giveaways. For the holiday season, which is one of the busiest times around FBYC, Zeke went above and beyond. If we ever needed extra help or found ourselves in a bind, Zeke made himself readily available. We always knew we could depend on Zeke and the high degree of service he provided to our clients. He is very friendly, relatable and truly goes the extra mile with everything he does.

Since the holiday season has ended Zeke still commits time every week to come in and help. We are looking forward to him serving as a lead for a hunger study we are conducting in Yolo County this spring. Zeke is an excellent candidate for the hunger study as he is very community orientated and volunteersbecause he wants to make a difference in his community. Volunteering to him is about being selfless and helping the next person.

In addition to be being a good samaritan Zeke is also a family man who spends his time helping at his kid’s schools and assisting with his son’s baseball team. He is also the reigning “Monopoly Champion” offamily game night. When not winning at Monopoly Zeke enjoys golfing with friends and fishing.

Thank You for all of your hard work, Zeke!

Friday, December 21, 2012

December's Volunteer of the Month: Corey

It is an honor to recognize Corey Hollowell as our Volunteer of the Month for December. Corey has been volunteering with The Food Bank of Yolo County (FBYC) as a lead volunteer for the Holiday Basket Giveaways since October. On average he donates 24 hours per week and has helped register almost 3,000 clients for the Holiday Basket Giveaways.
Corey is a part of the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network (LEVN), which provides him the opportunity to give one year of service through work with nonprofits in Yolo County and the greater Sacramento area. This program is perfect for Corey because he has always had a passion for helping others and improving the community. LEVN helped connect Corey with Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network (YIIN) and they have been so kind to share Corey’s time and talents with us.
Corey is a delight to have in the office and he knows how to make anyone smile. He has become a part of the FBYC family and truly is someone we can rely on. Not only is he dependable and goes above and beyond, but he takes the initiative to increase efficiency with his work. Above all, he has one of the most positive attitudes around.
Corey’s favorite part of volunteering is meeting his fellow Good Samaritans and hearing the stories of the clients he is serving. When not working to better the community, Corey likes riding bikes, hiking and long walks on the beach.
Corey, you are a true star and we appreciate all your help!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Volunteer of the Month: Ramon

It is with great honor that we recognize Ramon Urbano as our Volunteer of the Month for September. Ramon has served as lead volunteer for our Kid’s Farmers Market and its multiple sites since April 2012. Ramon is from Woodland, and has made a commitment to volunteer and get involved in the community. He is passionate about volunteering because he enjoys being able to help where it is needed and making a difference in the community. He is very involved in social issues in California and taking action. 

Ramon is not only known for being active in the community but also keeping things lighthearted. Amanda, the FBYC’s Director of Programs, describes Ramon as "positive and fun"; he enjoys what he does and makes it enjoyable for everyone.

When not being serving the community Ramon enjoys working on his home farm and traveling.

Thank you for all your hard work, Ramon! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Volunteer of the Month: Andrew

Posing for the camera before the distribution

For the month of August, we’re pleased to recognize Andrew Lehman as our Volunteer of the Month. Andrew is a student at UC Davis and has been a volunteer with us for a year and a half now. He has dedicated countless hours in the early morning as a volunteer at Friday’s Table.

Andrew has a passion for helping others and appreciates the opportunity the Food Bank of Yolo County (FBYC)  allows him to do so. When not dedicating time at FBYC or studying for classes, Andrew can be found working on his bike and truck. In addition to getting his hands dirty, Andrew also likes to stay in the know with recent scientific developments.

Corkey, Andrew’s supervisor, describes him as helpful and very dedicated. Although Andrew may be a little shy at times, it doesn’t take away from all the help and support he has given.

Handing out onions
Thank you for your hard work and dedication, Andrew!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hunger in the UK

A few months ago, we were lucky enough to be visited by Margaret Rooney, who lives in London, England. Margaret volunteers at her local food bank, the Islington Foodbank, part of the The Trussell Trust, which serves the UK and Bulgaria. 

Storage area of Islington Foodbank
According to The Trussell Trust, nearly 13 million people in the UK live below the poverty line. Islington Foodbank serves several hundred people annually and hopes to continue growing.

Some food boxes ready for distribution

To learn more about The Trussell Trust and the work they're doing in the UK and Bulgaria, please visit:

Monday, July 9, 2012

July's Volunteer of the Month: Charlie

This month, we're pleased to feature Charles "Charlie" Cook as our Volunteer of the Month. Charlie has donated nearly 260 hours of time since May 1, 2012.

Charlie serves as a warehouse volunteer, where he constantly demonstrates a "can do" attitude and approaches his duties with thoughtfulness and care. His favorite part of volunteering with the Food Bank of Yolo County is "working with and helping friendly people" and he especially enjoys making EFAP deliveries to Esparto.

An avid outdoorsman, Charlie likes to go fishing and camping in his spare time.

Thank you, Charlie, for your dedication and hard work!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Food Stamp Challenge, Day 5

I am mindful that as I observe Friday as the final day of my annual hunger challenge, millions of Californians will continue to struggle through uncertain times in the days, weeks, and months ahead.  CalFresh is a fundamental safety net program whose Depression-era roots underlie what I believe to be a remaining core function of government--to provide temporary assistance to those who find themselves without basic needs and incentivize self-sufficiency.

I recall decades ago, when my brother, a chemical engineer employed in the aeronautical industry in Los Angeles, was laid-off when unexpected reductions in government contracts threw him out-of-work.  He had always been the primary breadwinner, with his wife working part-time in a clerical position raising three small children.  He was a proud man, and one I might note now that did not necessarily share my views about those less fortunate in our communities.  Very reluctantly, and with the urging of his wife, the family enrolled in what was then called "Food Stamp Program".  The benefits kept food on their table and eventually changed his perspective about "welfare".  Fortunately, within a period of two years, he was re-employed and went on to earn several patents for his work.  I share this story in his memory, as he passed away just a few months after he supported me in winning my seat in the Assembly.

To all those who have joined me this week, I thank and applaud you, including members of my District Office staff--Cat Nou, Don Lowrie, and Andrew Benware (they were not REQUIRED to do so!).  To stay true to the Hunger Challenge during one of the more difficult weeks of our legislative session requires determination, discipline, and dedication.  For the naysayers, I challenge you to try it--even for one day.  Solano County ranks 11th and Yolo County ranks 50th out of 58 counties in CalFresh participation.  For those, like my brother, who did not ever believe they would need assistance, I encourage you to find out if you are eligible for this 100% federal benefit, and to give back by supporting your local Food Bank.  Visit this website and sign up today:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Food Stamp Challenge, Day 4

Stayed in my Capitol Office until nearly 9 p.m. last night to finish up an Op Ed  and read additional materials and budget impact information coming in from many constituency groups in my district.  I had not packed dinner so was pretty hungry by that time.  To make matters even more interesting, one of our departing  interns had graciously stopped by earlier in the day to drop off some delicious, homemade baklava (I know because she's been treating us to her desserts for the past three years).  Alone in my office with a plate of delectable sweets (and those of you who really know me understand where dessert ranks in my food pyramid!), I was sorely tempted to sneak one.  However, as my NAPAWF sisters taking the challenge this year with me know, one of the rules of the Hunger Challenge is no "free food".  So, I brought my "share" of the treats home to my husband.

Experiencing this reminds me that food commercials frequently blare at us on TV, and we are surrounded by plenty in the Capitol community.  For those whose access to food is restricted by income, transportation, and physical health, watching those food advertisements towards the end of the month when benefits dry up must be similarly challenging.

On my way home, I spent $1.93 on a zucchini which I added to my baked chicken and tofu dinner and a single serving package of ground coffee--Double Dutch Chocolate.  I am going to treat myself to a cuppa joe at the end of Friday when we are expected to vote for another ugly California budget.

Look for my final 2012 installment tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Food Stamp Challenge, Day 3

Photo Source
Long day Tuesday, but made it home and prepared "corn cakes" with fresh banana, and made a meal out of more chicken and sliced cucumbers.

During Democratic Caucus yesterday noon, a colleague said he would have joined me but did not have access to a kitchen.  I didn't say anything to him, but want to note here that thousands of CalFresh recipients are in the same boat.  That's why the CalFresh Restaurant Meals program is so important:  Although this program is open only to the homeless, elderly, and disabled (although those on SSI are not eligible for SNAP because the benefit amount is "cashed-out" in the monthly grant--we can argue about that another time!), it is another avenue for the hungry among us.

With the heat rising outside, I have been drinking only filtered tap water and coconut milk (which I confess is not a favorite but I put it in my grocery cart because I had a 75 cents off coupon).  Wednesday is food ad day, so I will check the sales and see if I can afford a can of frozen orange juice with my $2.25 in reserve.  Will attend Legislative Women's Caucus "brown bag" luncheon with my real brown bag lunch of a tuna salad sandwich and grapes.  The impending budget vote will affect women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor saddens me to know that tobacco companies can spend $50M to defeat one ballot measure while millions of Californians are suffering daily from hunger pangs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Food Stamp Challenge, Day 2

Asm. Yamada's food purchases for the week
Some may question the wisdom of taking on the Hunger Challenge this week, in the difficult run-up to Friday, June 15 constitutional budget deadline.  For those battling hunger, this is the perfect week to highlight that hunger doesn't take a break.

Monday's meals were raisin bran and coconut milk for breakfast; yogurt and banana for lunch; egg salad sandwich, grapes, and a chicken drumstick for dinner.  Am drinking filtered tap water as I did not find a good deal on coffee this year.  I already warned my staff (smile).

With summer vacation, many children who rely upon the free or reduced lunch program during the school year find themselves without basic sustenance.  See for more information on this important nutrition program.

Tuesday is a difficult day, with committee hearings, Democratic Caucus where I will eat my chicken sandwich and grapes while my colleagues eat our usual nice catered lunch (which the legislators--not the taxpayers--pay for), followed by bill presentations in Senate Human Services and Senate Veterans Affairs.

Additional briefings with staff will be followed by a quick dash to Woodland to attend the Yolo County Farm Bureau meeting recognizing the Future Farmers of America.  A perfect group to end the day with since we are focusing, after all, on food.

More Wednesday.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Food Stamp Challenge, Day 1

Today marks Day 1 of my 2012 Hunger Challenge, my fourth consecutive as a state legislator.  Thanks to the few hardy souls who have joined me in living on a "food stamp budget" of $22.30 for the week.  While we will end our food insecurity in five days, millions of Californians do not have that luxury.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not fare well under the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee's 2012 Farm Bill mark-up.  U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has offered an amendment to restore the proposed cuts.  The inevitable complications of an election year point to the final Farm Bill details to be worked out later this year, placing millions of hungry Americans and the farmers who feed America in the balance.  The fight to protect SNAP can and must continue as we continue to make our way back through tough economic times.

Closer to home, this Friday, June 15, is the state budget deadline.  I am calling it "Cut-Mageddon".  According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), over 19 percent of Californians are unable to afford enough food to eat.  Despite this widespread hardship, the Governor's 2012-13 budget calls for more than $2 billion in health and human services reductions.  SNAP remains a 100% federal benefit--but federal reductions could devastate the California program, CalFresh.

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Davis Bike Club's "Alpinsanity" Fundraiser

DBC Members dropping off their donation
Earlier this year, we were contacted by Deb Ford of the Davis Bike Club announcing that the newly created "April Alpinsanity" fundraiser would benefit the Food Bank of Yolo County (FBYC). Today, a crew from the DBC rode from Davis to FBYC's location in Woodland to drop off the proceeds from their event.

The goal behind Alpinsanity was to donate .05 for every 100 feet in elevation ridden. In total, 48 DBC members rode 1,056,100 feet! Thanks to this effort, FBYC, along with Davis Bicycles, received a donation of $338.78, which will help provide $5,759.26 worth of food value.
Climbing section

Helping dad up the hill
On behalf of FBYC and those we serve, we want to send a HUGE thank you to Deb Ford and the members of DBC for this tremendous, thoughtful, and creative fundraising event! We had a great time tracking the elevation with you and can't wait for next year.
Sierra Foothills ride
Messy bike after a ride