CalFresh Challenge

Could you feed yourself three nutritious meals a day with only $5?

That’s the average CalFresh benefit amount in California. Thousands of our neighbors in Mendocino County subsist on such a budget for themselves and their families through their CalFresh benefits. Whether due to a minimum wage job, job loss, health issue or simply bad luck, thousands of local families are income eligible for CalFresh. This program provides households with the financial resources to purchase groceries—literally putting food on tables for millions of American children, adults and seniors; giving them the fuel to better their lives and create stronger, healthier communities.

Many families survive entirely on the food acquired through their CalFresh benefits. That budget, on average, equates to only $35 per week for food. What if that’s all you had to spend on groceries?

We challenge you to try living on such a food budget for five days. Find out about the CalFresh Challenge, read what other participants are saying, and then share your experience.

The CalFresh Challenge gives participants a glimpse into some of the struggles faced by millions of low-income Americans who are trying to put food on their tables. The challenge provides an opportunity for participants to experience how difficult it is for families living on CalFresh to simultaneously avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy with limited resources.

You can register here. If you prefer a plant-based diet, try

This challenge is open to all individuals and involves living on what would be the weekly CalFresh allotment in California for five days, so you can get a sense of what it would be like to subsist on CalFresh. This means spending only $5 per day, per person, on everything that you eat, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, seasonings and drinks.

After you register for the CalFresh Challenge, you will receive a booklet in the mail to record your experience over the 5 days of the Challenge (any 5 consecutive days you choose during the month of October). Once you’ve finished, we’d like to learn about your thoughts and ideas during the Challenge, so please return your completed booklet to:

Food for All Mendocino
c/o North Coast Opportunities
413 N. State Street
Ukiah, CA 95482

WHY RETURN YOUR BOOKLET?
First of all, every returned booklet will be entered into a drawing to win an INSTANT POT! So please don’t forget to include your name and phone number on your booklet before returning.

Second, your experiences and comments will provide us with insights and quotes we can share to highlight the successes and challenges of the CalFresh program.

Third, a deadline is always a good way to actually do a challenge!

Completed booklets are DUE BY OCTOBER 31, 2017 in order to be entered into the prize drawing.

Here’s a sample menu plan to get you started. If you prefer a plant-based diet, try these ideas.

CalFresh Challenge Guidelines

  • Each person should spend up to $5 for food and beverages per day during the Challenge period, which is the average benefit for a CalFresh beneficiary in California. All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including dining out, must be included in the total spending.

  • During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchase for the project. If you eat food that you already have at home or that is given to you by friends, family or work, account for it in your CalFresh budget.
  • Keep track of food spending and take notes of your experiences throughout the week.
  • Share your experience.
  • CalFresh Challenge participants are encouraged to keep a daily journal and share their experiences—during and after the challenge—with their friends, family and others.
    Once you register, you will receive a CalFresh Challenge booklet in the mail for you to record your food log, as well as your thoughts and ideas.

Reflections and Food For Thought

Here’s what you may find when you keep a food diary.

You may notice these pitfalls:

  • Your food costs are really high (way higher than a CalFresh budget of $5/day/person!)

  • You eat a lot of packaged, pre-made, or restaurant foods and drinks
  • You engage in lots of unplanned eating (snacking)
  • You don’t eat enough (skipping meals)
  • You eat too much (larger portions than necessary)
  • Your diet is lacking in fruits and vegetables
  • You forget to drink plenty of water instead of sugary drinks

You may notice these successes:

  • You are doing a great job at preparing meals at home (that can be very economical!)

  • You are eating five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day
  • You eat fresh, nutritious food from local farmers and ranchers
  • You drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • You limit expensive snack and drink purchases

Take time to reflect on what you’ve noticed after completing your food diary. Have a conversation with friends about the true cost of food. Think about:

  • The average CalFresh benefit for a low-income household is $5 per day per person. Is it possible to feed yourself well on $5 per day every day? What would you have to change in order to keep to that limited budget?

  • Why it is that some food is really cheap (food like ramen noodles and chips), and other foods can be more expensive (food like apples and peanut butter, and local foods from the farmers market)?
  • What are the “externalized” hidden costs of cheap foods? How does some food get so cheap? For some answers, check out this 2 minute video.