Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 12:04 pm | Fair 54º

 
 
 
 

Foodbank CEO Takes Food Security Challenge

Eric Talkin has pledged to spend three weeks living on $6 per day for food

Six dollars a day.

That’s what Foodbank of Santa Barbara County CEO Eric Talkin is spending on food for the next three weeks.

It’s all part of the Food Security Challenge, a month-long exploration for Talkin about what it takes to stay healthy and nourished while facing the hardship many in Santa Barbara County confront after the loss of a job or discovering that low-wage employment won’t cover expenses.

Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker took the same challenge for a week in December to protest cuts to the federal food-stamp program, or SNAP.

Expanding on Booker’s challenge, Talkin will be adding three weeks to the time period, but the concepts are the same.

Talkin will have to spend the equivalent of what he would receive in food stamps, Foodbank distributions and the like if he qualified.

During the next three weeks, he’s not actually taking food from the Foodbank or from food stamps, but buying the equivalent with his own money.

Jan. 14 was Talkin’s first day on the new budget, and he started by going to down to a Foodbank distribution center at Franklin School on Santa Barbara’s Lower Eastside.

Talkin said he was able to pick up a 10-pound chicken, some potatoes, spaghetti sauce and other items.

“It came to about $80 worth of groceries. ... That’s huge,” he said.

Even with the food given out at the distribution, Talkin still had to wait an hour, which would be a problem if someone were working and couldn’t take time off.

Noozhawk caught up with Talkin this week as he shopped for basics to fill in the gaps from the distribution center, and was looking for items such as rice, beans and cooking oil.

At that point, he’d had only a pear for breakfast.

To find the cheapest prices on basics, Talkin had a spreadsheet on a clipboard, comparing prices from Chapala Market, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market and Trader Joe’s.

He looked at a bag of brown rice, and found it to be cheapest. Eating healthy on this type of a budget is difficult, and the temptation of cheap calories is a difficult one to overcome.

Talkin examined peanut butter, a cheap nutritious source of protein, and found that a small jar of the all-natural stuff is a good $3 more than a jar mixed with jelly and loaded with extra sugar.

A couple of aisles over, an entire shelf of Ramen noodles loomed over him, but Talkin said resolutely, “I’m going to make my own soup.”

He recounted a time going through a divorce when his own money was tight, and he was forced to buy food on a strict budget.

He recalled his mother drying teabags in college so she could use them a second time, and said that the reality of survival with the high prices of food is a stark one.

Just mentioning the words “food stamps” is incendiary in American culture, he said, and touches off discussions about individualism, welfare and self-worth.

But food stamps are value neutral, and the rules to get them are tight, he said.

“We want to begin the discussion,” he said. “It’s scary for a lot of people, because then they start to think, ‘I could be in this situation.’”

For others, it conjures up fear and suspicion about people taking advantage of the system, he said.

In Santa Barbara County, many people who qualify for food stamps aren’t enrolled in the program, because of pride, or because they don’t have time to take on the “bureaucratic maze” that they sometimes involve, Talkin said.

That adds up to a loss of millions of dollars of federal money not being spent in the county, he said.

Talkin encouraged people who want to get involved in ending hunger in Santa Barbara County to donate to the Foodbank’s Virtual Food Drive, where people can donate money, which than can be leveraged exponentially since the Foodbank can purchase food items often at pennies on the dollar.

Click here to track Talkin’s progress with his challenge.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >