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Chef Tyler Florence to Participate in Hunger Challenge

August 27, 2013

MEDIA CONTACT: Blain Johnson
(415) 282-1907 x270 (office), (512) 487-2583 (cell)

Chef Tyler Florence to Participate in Hunger Challenge 
Challenge asks participants to live off Food Bank groceries + $4.50-a-day food budget

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (Aug. 27, 2013) – The San Francisco and Marin Food Bank is launching an enhanced Hunger Challenge designed to bring awareness to what it’s like to be at risk of hunger.

Tyler Florence, Food Network chef and owner of San Francisco’s Wayfare Tavern, has signed on to participate in the challenge. Tyler is also the newest member of the Food Bank’s board of directors. 

“Food is the source of such great joy and creativity in the restaurant world, but there’s a whole segment of the population in San Francisco and Marin that doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from,” Florence says. “I wanted to challenge myself to experience that world so I can better understand what my neighbors go through every day and to spread the word about the Food Bank.”

In a departure from previous versions of the Hunger Challenge, the Food Bank is inviting participants to experience what it’s like to build their weekly meals around a food stamp budget – plus groceries distributed at a typical food pantry.

“The traditional Hunger Challenge asks participants to live off $4.50 a day; however, we all know that’s a nearly impossible task. But by asking participants to live on a SNAP budget plus food pantry groceries, we hope to bring the conversation closer to the experience of a food pantry participant and the actual work the Food Bank does every day,” says Paul Ash, executive director of the San Francisco and Marin Food Bank.

The Food Bank Hunger Challenge is designed in two parts – a simulated food pantry experience and a self-imposed $4.50-per-person a day food budget – to mirror the experience of food pantry participants who also receive SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps).

“If participants are asking themselves whether this challenge will be difficult and inconvenient, I assure you it will be,” Ash says. “Going out for a sushi dinner or buying a $4 latte doesn’t figure into this budget. This will be a week of planning meals and making every dollar stretch.”

About the Hunger Challenge
The Food Bank asks that participants live for five business days on the pantry groceries and an additional $4.50-a-day, per person, food budget. The pantry groceries do not count against the $4.50 budget. The Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge begins Monday morning, Sept. 9, and runs until midnight, Friday, Sept. 13.

The Food Bank is inviting people of influence – chefs, elected officials, journalists and major donors – to an invite-only simulated food pantry at the Food Bank warehouse.

“I’m inviting influential participants to take this challenge with me, so that together we can attempt to think and speak from the perspective of a food pantry participant and SNAP beneficiary,” Ash says. “Taking this challenge for a mere five days will not lend me the full perspective of the hardship and challenges of managing such a tight budget every day. It is, however, a good-faith attempt to walk in someone else’s shoes – and bring that experience into the public consciousness.”

The Food Bank is also inviting members of the general public to participate by providing them with a grocery list they can use to purchase their own simulated food pantry groceries. Hunger Challenge participants are given suggested quantities adjusted by household size.

The groceries parallel those the Food Bank provides to more than 30,000 households each week through its 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.

The Food Bank has launched a new website section in conjunction with the campaign, with a Frequently Asked Questions page, information about the connection between the Food Bank and SNAP, and budget recipes and shopping tips.

“We want Hunger Challenge participants to feel the level of support our food pantry participants receive,” Ash says. “The recipes and budget shopping tips are fliers we give out weekly at our pantries. At our pantries, we even go one step further and offer cooking and nutrition education classes.”

A Pivotal Point for Advocacy
The San Francisco and Marin Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge comes at a time when SNAP benefits are under attack in Congress, with a current proposal to cut the program by $40 billion.

“The fact that one in four people are at risk of hunger in the midst of two counties with such great wealth is extremely unsettling, and it’s all of our responsibility to try to solve that problem,” Florence says. “The Hunger Challenge is a great opportunity to advocate for those in need and remind Congress that cutting SNAP is not the answer.”   

In San Francisco and Marin counties, about 57,000 people rely on CalFresh, as SNAP is known in California, and most of them are children. SNAP benefits are distributed on debit-type cards that allow participants to buy groceries.

So what’s the connection between the Food Bank and SNAP? The Food Bank does not provide SNAP benefits; however, the Food Bank does help food pantry participants sign up for SNAP through outreach programs. As noted on the front page of the Sunday, Aug. 18, Los Angeles Times, California has the lowest SNAP enrollment of any of the 50 states.

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.

Both CalFresh benefits and food bank groceries are intended as supplemental programs used to work in conjunction with a household’s own food budget.

SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130 percent of the federal poverty guideline, which comes out to $25,400 for a family of three. SNAP provides an average of about $146 per person, per month to purchase food.

About the Food Bank
One in four residents faces the threat of hunger in San Francisco and Marin.

Every day, the Food Bank sources, collects, sorts, inspects and repackages thousands of pounds of food, then distributes it to soup kitchens, neighborhood pantries, school programs and seniors in need.

The pantry network is the cornerstone of the Food Bank’s distribution system. The Food Bank distributes food to 240 food pantries in San Francisco and Marin. The pantries are set up farmer’s market-style, with volunteers helping households select groceries. Nearly 60 percent of what is distributed is fresh fruits and vegetables.

During an average week, the Food Bank serves more than 147,000 people throughout San Francisco and Marin counties.  The Food Bank will distribute more than 46 million pounds of food to the community this year alone – enough for more than 105,000 meals every day.  
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