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.