My food-stamp challenge

Who doesn’t devour whatever, whenever—and with little regard for need or nutrition? Floodgates of beer, cruise-boat-length burritos, pizzas that eclipse the moon—it doesn’t feel gluttonous, but only because it’s so damn American.

I too am a member of this mindless-hog generation. But I cut off the feeding tube this past week to partake in the Sacramento Hunger Coalition's 7-Day Food Stamp Challenge.

The rules were straightforward: Spend $4.90 on food one day during the week. I'm doing all seven (see photos of participants' meals and learn more at, and it's been edifying, healthful. A week of low-cost, modest servings—steamed broccoli, purple potatoes, quinoa, sliced apples and persimmons—was a needed slap in the face.

But the reality for most people living on food stamps, or CalFresh, is grim: multiple jobs, single parenthood. Which often means Doritos Locos; dinners zapped in plastic; mystery meats; funky chickens; and all sorts of easy-to-prepare foods that further obesity, diabetes and countless other health problems.

Yet it doesn't take poverty to succumb to a crappy diet. Walking down 16th Street on Saturday night, I nearly relapsed in the face of sushi piles, brew pints and burgers the size of a small child's head. For some of us, it's so easy to fork over 20 bucks on a whim, to shovel chili fries or biscuits and gravy down the ol' piehole.

But it's not victimless.

This week's cover story is a reminder. Food scarcity isn't just a homeless problem, but it's still hard to reconcile the hunger I saw in people's eyes with the gluttony on the grid.

“Farm-to-Fork”—it's a great Sacramento mantra. But let's remember to not be piggish. Let's not be “farm to shovel.”