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The Hunger Challenge: How Powerful is a Rumbling Stomach?

Day two of living on a food stamp budget of $4.46 a day prompts reflection about the myth that America is a land of abundance.

Hunger puts things into perspective. That's the reason for taking this challenge — not for its novelty, or to mock those who live on a restricted food budget. I know that at the end of this week I will be able to escape and return to my more comfortable lifestyle — the thought is in my mind constantly. I am reminded at every turn of what I cannot have; it's clear from the billboards, the restaurant windows and the passersby flaunting their afternoon treats. Even after two days, I am beginning to experience the power of a rumbling stomach. 

A rumbling stomach makes it hard to concentrate. It makes you tired. It makes you think about food all the time.

A rumbling stomach is depressing. It makes you bitter about the food-oriented culture we live in, and the over-indulgence that has become part of normality. 

A rumbling stomach makes an orange taste like it's never tasted before. You savor every bite and experience the fullness of the flavor, knowing that there are no more in the fruit basket. It makes you chop vegetables to the very stem, striving to get as much as possible and waste nothing. It makes you afraid to wander into town with your bottle of tap water on a sizzling hot day and face all those people drinking smoothies that cost the same as your entire day's budget for food.

As Lisa Sherrill from the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano describes in a recent blog post, hunger isn't a game. Food is celebrated all around us — from the giant billboards depicting triple-stacked burgers and subway sandwiches the size of a forearm, to the plethora of restaurants serving portion sizes that could feed a family. The implication is that there is abundance for all, and yet millions of adults and children in California struggle with rumbling stomachs every day. 

My own has taught me that I can live on less, and that food is not to be taken for granted — a thought I will continue to savor.

Below is a dinner recipe I came up with in desperation, after destroying two artichokes by burning them into a chewy mess.

Tofu and Eggplant Kebabs (Serves Two)

1/2 a pack of firm tofu, cut into large cubes
1/2 an eggplant, cut into large pieces
Pepper, ginger, garlic and soy sauce for marinade

  • Combine the pepper, ginger, garlic and soy sauce in a bowl
  • Add the tofu and eggplant cubes and pieces
  • Cover and leave to marinade for 30 minutes to 2 hours
  • Arrange the cubes on a kebab skewer
  • Place on a greased or oiled baking tray and grill, turning every 5 minutes
  • Serve

To follow along with my experience of The Hunger Challenge, read:

Monday: 
Tuesday: 
Wednesday: 

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Dena R June 15, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Chris...I would love to trade you some oranges for loquats! let me know...:)
Dena R June 15, 2012 at 11:45 AM
or peas/lemons/blackberries!
Chris Kapsalis June 15, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Youre welocme to come by mama. You can write me at Stepsupagain@aol.com set up a time if you like. I'll be working the yard today all morning. I posted a picture of a caserole I made yesterday all from the garden, minus the cheese. It's so good!!
Rachel June 15, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Fantastic Chris! I would love to homestead more than I do (mostly herbs and cherry tomatoes). The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano also happily accepts donations of fresh produce to make available to our partner agencies like Loaves & Fishes. -Rachel from the Food Bank
Rachel June 15, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Oh yes! We grew up eating loquats from my grandparent's tree! Emily, try Berkeley Bowl. Their season is short (right now!) like apricots and pears had a baby.

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