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Hunger Challenge Frequently Asked Questions


  • What are the Food Bank Hunger Challenge dates?

    The Food Bank Hunger Challenge begins the morning of Monday, Sept. 9. We ask participants to live off the food pantry grocery list and a $4.50-a-day, per person food budget for five working days, with the Challenge ending at midnight, Friday, Sept.13. 

  • Why are there two parts to the Challenge – the pantry list and the $4.50-a-day budget?

    This challenge was designed to closely simulate the experience of our food pantry clients, many of whom also participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The average daily SNAP benefit is $4.50 a day per person. (SNAP benefits are distributed on debit-type cards that allow participants to buy groceries.) If you’re living on weekly groceries from the Food Bank and a $4.50-a-day food purchasing budget, this approximates the experience of many low-income households in San Francisco and Marin. 

  • What food should I purchase to simulate the Food Bank pantry experience?

    The grocery list is available online. The groceries parallel those we provide to more than 30,000 households each week through our pantry network. More than 60 percent of each pantry offering is fresh fruits and vegetables. The healthy produce is complemented by lean protein, such as chicken or eggs, and grains like rice and pasta.

  • What does the Food Bank provide during the Challenge?

    The Food Bank will provide a grocery list that mirros the experience of food pantry clients local hunger stats and talking points, recipes, budget shopping tips and press support.  

  • What do I provide as a Hunger Challenge participant?

    A willingness to make a good-faith effort to follow the Challenge guidelines. Willingness to purchase groceries according to the shopping list. A self-imposed budget of $4.50 a day, per person participating in the Challenge. Using the Challenge as an opportunity to advocate for those at risk of hunger in our community. 

  • Guidelines: How strict is the Challenge? What counts? What about oil, spices, alcohol and free lunches?

    We believe in making a good-faith effort to get by on simulated Food Bank groceries and $4.50 a day for five days. There will be many occasions when following this activity to the letter may take some soul searching. Here are a few examples.

    Free office coffee: We recommend drinking your office coffee if this is a part of your routine. Many places of employment offer free coffee, and many Food Bank pantry clients and SNAP recipients work full or part-time. However, $4 lattes are out (unless you don’t mind having 50 cents leftover for the day).

    Oils and spices: If you already have oils, spices and condiments in the fridge, you can use them without counting against your $4.50 daily food budget. However, if you purchase any of these items during the week, they should be subtracted from your weekly budget.

    Alcohol: It’s up to you how to spend your food budget. However, alcohol is not a very nutritionally dense choice and it counts against your weekly budget.

    Eating out: Any food or drink you buy counts against your budget. So beware of restaurant meals – they can decimate your budget in a single lunch.

    Free lunches and events: Cue scene: you’re an elected official at a lunchtime reception. Rather than eat the food provided, you decide that this meal probably wouldn’t be available if you were a low-income person working a minimum wage job. You refrain from eating or instead, you pull out a tuna fish sandwich from your satchel. The entire table asks what you’re up to. You tell them about the Hunger Challenge.  

  • I’ve been moved to advocate for the hungry through my participation in the Challenge. How can I do so?

    Opportunities to advocate are plentiful during the Challenge. When coworkers ask about your PB&J or you decline a lunch invitation, tell them about the Hunger Challenge and explain that one in four people in San Francisco and Marin are at risk of hunger. Contribute a blog post to the Food Bank website. Write your elected officials a letter or pen an opinion column for a local or national newspaper. Volunteer. Or start a food drive.   

  • What if my whole family wants to participate?

    We would love to have your family or household participate so you can represent the experience of low income families in San Francisco and Marin. After all, the majority of SNAP beneficiaries are children. We will provide grocery lists adjusted for family size, and you should adjust your $4.50 per day per person budget to include additional family members.

  • What’s the connection between the Food Bank and SNAP? Is the Food Bank a government entity? Does the Food Bank provide SNAP benefits?

    Many food pantry participants are eligible for or also receive SNAP benefits.

    The Food Bank is not a government entity. The Food Bank does not provide SNAP benefits; however, the Food Bank does help food pantry participants help sign up for SNAP through outreach programs. Food banks are a natural partner in SNAP outreach because of their direct connection to food insecure families in the community. By connecting eligible families with SNAP, food banks help provide food insecure households with a consistent and stable means to purchase their own food.

  • How can I make a donation to the Food Bank?

    You can make an online donation right now. For every $1 you donate, the Food Bank can distribute $6 worth of food.