The Hunger Challenge is underway

BlogHer Original Post

This morning, nearly 34 million people in the United States faced more than the usual Monday challenge: Their week includes figuring out how to feed themselves on a food stamp budget. Thanks to economic stimulus money, that budget is higher this year than last: $28 per week, per person, rather than $21. That extra $7 makes a tremendous difference, although doing a week’s worth of shopping is tough to do even at the higher level.

Last year, Gayle Keck of the San Francisco Food Bank dreamed up The Hunger Challenge. This event gave bloggers the opportunity to try living on a food stamp budget--just $21 for the week in 2008. Six of us participated, and shared our struggles on our blogs. It was a stressful, difficult week, and left me more committed than ever to do whatever I can to help feed the hungry and to increase access to fresh, affordable food for those who live in underserved areas.

The bloggers who are participating this year have already passed the first big hurdle: shopping for their ingredients for the week. Amy Sherman of Cooking With Amy, who worked with Keck last year to round up the participating bloggers, offers a terrific list of tips on how to save on your groceries, even at a more expensive market like Whole Foods.

Keck, who blogs at Been There Ate That, said she spent even more time shopping for the challenge this year than she did last year. “I drove to four different places and spent three and a half hours in pursuit of bargains,” she wrote. “Not exactly sustainable for weeks on end—and imagine if you could only afford to take mass transit…”

There are a number of new bloggers participating in this year’s challenge, including Abi Jones of Heat Eat Review. Her take on the challenge is to try to eat the things that are already in her house, and she started the week with a bowl of oatmeal and without coffee, which doesn’t fit into her daily food budget. “I miss you, coffee,” she said.

Kimberly Alexandra of Poor Girl Eats Well is another new participant in the challenge, although she’s just getting started today. She’s already a great resource for people looking for affordable, tasty recipes. “I truly have a hard time making ends meet most of the time; I sometimes count change to buy some tomatoes and cat food; and I make the most of every single ingredient I’m lucky enough to have in my kitchen,” she wrote. “The sad part is that I’m one of the lucky ones.”

I’m going to scoop myself by a few hours here--my first Hunger Challenge post won’t go up on my blog until tonight--and admit that, for a variety of reasons, I decided not to participate as directly in the Hunger Challenge this time around. I’ve shopped for my groceries, keeping everything under $28, and I’m going to be cooking that food this week and sharing recipes and experiences, but I am not sticking to the strict guidelines of the challenge this time around. I realize how privileged I am to be able to make that choice, and I’m grateful to have a platform to raise awareness, regardless.

If you have a Twitter account or a blog and want to support the Hunger Challenge, you can participate in an effort to use social media that will hopefully result in a donation of 100,000 pounds of food to local food banks. All you have to do is Tweet or blog about some sobering statistics about hunger in the U.S. Visit the Social Media Club’s blog to read Kristie Wells’ post about the effort. I hope you’ll consider taking Kristie’s challenge and becoming part of this strategy to feed the hungry.

BlogHer is a media sponsor of The Hunger Challenge this year, and that sponsorship could not be better timed: the challenge coincides with BlogHer Food ’09. I’ll be representing the challenge as part of the panel “How Food Blogs Can Save the World,” which is part of the Values track. I’ll be moderating a discussion between Lydia Walshin of Drop in and Decorate, Valerie Harrison of BloggerAid and Pim Techamuanvivit, who founded and organizes Menu for Hope on her blog, Chez Pim. We hope you’ll join us for an informative session!

Here's a list of all the bloggers participating in The Hunger Challenge this year at some level:

Genie blogs about gardening and food at The Inadvertent Gardener, and tells very short tales at 100 Proof Stories. She is also documenting her year in photos at 365 in 2009.

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