David Davenport–Food Stamp Challenge Champion

Ever done the Food Stamp Challenge?  Limit your budget to $25 a week–what a single SNAP (formerly food stamps) recipient is allocated. I did it for a week in 2009, and reported on it here. I’m a cook and have time to cook. I was a professional musician early in life, and learned to live sparsely. So I had a few tools in my toolbox. But I was still really glad to reach the end of the one week to which I committed.

Several local, state and national elected officials have done the Food Stamp Challenge. Unfortunately, the ones who’ve done it aren’t usually the ones who should be doing it.  I’ll leave it at that.

David Davenport, executive director of The Second Harvest Community Food Bank in St. Joseph, Missouri, is nearing the completion of the second month-long commitment he’s made to the challenge. David’s a great American, and an exemplary hunger fighter, who truly walks the talk.  I was able to ask him a few questions about his experience with the challenge this time.

(Q) Why are you doing the challenge now?    (A)    I will throw everything I can muster at the challenge of hunger and food insecurity in the communities that make up our Missouri and Kansas service territory. To me the obvious starting place is investing time and effort to better understand the challenges our clients face on a daily basis.

(Q) Any notable differences and/or similarities in doing it for the second time from the first? Have recent rises in food costs been noticeable?  (A) Interestingly the last time I took on a month long Food Stamp Challenge was during the summer of 2008. Gas prices had jumped to over $4/gallon and food prices followed. The biggest difference is my health has improved dramatically and I have more flexibility in my diet. Last time around I lost so much weight my doctors demanded I stop the process early. That conclusion was very frustrating and emotional.

(Q) I’m thinking anyone who’s done this—especially for a month—can probably speak credibly to the assertion by some who’ve been advocates of SNAP funding cuts that the program promotes a “cycle of dependency.” What would you say to these and the other arguments being used to defend proposed cuts in SNAP funding?   (A) I have a sign in my office that reads “When I feed the poor they call me a saint, When I ask why the poor are hungry they call me a communist” (Dom Helder Camera) – nutrition assistance programs don’t create dependency – communities, organizations and local leaders that fail to empower systems that empower people create dependency by never offering a way up for those in need. Advocates for a hunger-free nation, state or community do a disservice if they never embrace or demand solutions beyond just feeding the hunger line. Cutting funding for programs such as SNAP, WIC, and Summer Food Service is tantamount to stopping a blood transfusion to an injured person because nobody is treating the wound. The idea that the only way the patient will recover (or be inspired to recover) is to make the situation worse is short sighted and immoral.

(Q) You’ve made no secret of the fact you’re an organ transplant recipient. I’m assuming you have to be particularly careful about nutrition. How does this kind of restricted budget impact someone with special nutritional needs?   (A) My dietary restrictions are similar to a diabetic or person with mild heart disease. According to the Hunger in America 2010 Study, nearly 40% of the households served by Second Harvest Community Food Bank have one or more members in poor health. My health challenges provide me an opportunity to explore the challenges surrounding eating a healthy diet on a limited budget. I am thankful for the suggestions and advice provided by the many folks that have followed me. Some of the best recipes have come directly from our clients including an amazing bean soup.

(Q) You’ve managed to create a tremendous amount of awareness (several media stories) in a community to which you’re relatively new. Any advice to those working in hunger relief around the country who might want to undergo the Food Stamp Challenge to create awareness in their own communities?    (A)  Yes, be authentic and go right after the issue full speed knowing that what is missing in the current debate around domestic hunger is “moral imagination” or the ability to feel the fear, frustration and pain felt by children, families and seniors in our local communities. Invest the time to sit in line on a freezing cold day for hours to receive a small bag of food that may last two days and on the bus ride home try and figure out a way to make it last a week. Bring those around you into that experience. Demand people follow your lead and embrace the core belief that Hunger is Unacceptable and act on that belief as an advocate, donor and/or volunteer. Finally, reach out and connect with others – if you care to bring about change there are many out there that share your passion.

David is also an excellent communicator, a longtime user of social tools to connect and engage with key communities. You can see how by following his Twitter account.

Thanks, David, and Godspeed.

I love it when a community comes together.



The Tyson Truck arrives at the food bank


By Ed Nicholson

 On Monday, we announced a collaborative effort, including Tyson Foods and the Social Media Club for the San Francisco Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge, part of their Hunger Action Month activities.
That support included Tyson donating 100 pounds of food to the food bank for every hunger fact in this post, up to a total donation of 100,000 pounds.
Though we’ve not added up all the tweets, it appears we–no, you–blew the roof off the 1000 tweets it would take to reach the 100,000 pound donation.  But you also did much more than that.
You leveraged your community to create desperately-needed awareness about the issue of hunger.  And awareness is something this issue needs as much as needs emergency food. 

Today, thanks to what you did, the first of three semi truckloads of Tyson products was delivered to the food bank.

On behalf of Tyson Foods, the Social Media Club and the San Francisco Food Bank, thank you for taking your time to contribute to this effort.

It’s time for another Hunger Challenge–You can help feed people in need

Last year, we had the opportunity to work with the San Francisco Food Bank and a great group of  bloggers to help raise awareness for hunger in the Bay Area during Hunger Action Month. It was a successful effort in which we asked for–and received–your assistance.   More than 2100 comments were submitted to this post, resulting in five truckoads of food being donated to Bay Area Food Banks.

We’re going to try something similar this year, with the help of the Hunger Challenge bloggers and the Social Media Club of San Francisco.

The whole idea is to use social media tools to increase awareness of the issue of hunger.  We won’t try to bribe you to become a Facebook fan. You don’t have to buy any products.  Here’s all you have to do:

There’s a list of hunger facts below.  All Tweetable.  Tweet  or retweet any of them with the hashtag  #HChal and Tyson Foods will make a 100 pound donation (up to a total of 100,000 pounds) to the San Francisco Food Bank.  Blog about this effort and we’ll donate 500 pounds.  Or comment to this post with your own verifiable fact (not opinion)  about hunger and we’ll donate 100 pounds.   That’s all you have to do. Let’s see how far and fast we can spread these facts out there in Twittervillle. If you’d like to make reference to this post, here’s a shortened URL:  http://bit.ly/sBE9x

Tweetable Facts About Hunger

More than 35 mil. people in the U.S. are on food stamps–up 3 million since Jan.  #HChal

App. 40% of families now on food stamps have "earned income"–up from just 25% 2 years ago.  #HChal #hungeraction

For every $1 donated @SFFoodBank can distribute $9 worth of groceries. #HChal #hungeraction

In San Francisco, 150K people are unsure where their next meal is coming from. #HChal #hungeraction

1 in 4 San Francisco children lack reg.access to food they need to learn, grow, & have a healthy start in life. #HChal

1 in 5 San Francisco adults can’t count on daily meals they need to lead healthy, productive lives. #HChal

1 in 4 San Francisco seniors lack the nourishment need to control chronic health problems. #HChal

@SFFoodBank distributed over 33.5 million pounds of food in the past year–nearly 8% more than the year before. #HChal

60% of the clients @SFFoodBank served last year come from working families.  #HChal

In CA, the average food stamp recicipient gets $4 a day to spend on food.  #HChal #hungeraction

In CA, a single person can get food stamps only if their yearly gross income is $14,079 or less. #HChal

5.3 mil. Californians are living below the federal poverty line ($21,834 for a family of 4) #HChal

The number of households participating in @SFFoodbank’s grocery pantry program is up 24% over last year. #HChal

You can help alleviate hunger with a single tweet this week:  http://bit.ly/sBE9x (no purchase or FB signup nec.) #HChal

Amy Sherman and Gayle Keck–Talk about the Hunger Challenge

Gayle Keck of the San Francisco Food Bank, and Amy Sherman, who does the Cooking With Amy blog, disucss how the Hunger Challenge was put together and executed.  Several Bay Area bloggers documented their experiences of living on $21 a week (a typical Food Stamp allotment)

It’s a great example of how social media can be put to good use creating much-needed awareness for the issue. 

John Curry, Food Resources Director, San Francisco FB

John Curry is the food resources manager for the San Francisco Food Bank.  John was instrumental in our expanding the Hunger Challenge comment for food effort to all five food banks in the Bay area. In addition to being an all-around good guy , John also helps manage a unique distribution sysem for the food bank.  John discusses the system in the video interview attached. 

John’s a great example of the kind of dedicated folks you’ll find in food banks all around the country.