September 12, 2011

Day 2: More like Hanger Challenge

I’m fading fast at 11pm on Day 2, belly full of way too many salty refried beans – huevos rancheros hit the spot but left me in a lardy fog:

I probably wouldn’t be feeling so spacey and headachey I’d had more than a couple packets of oatmeal and a PB&J that COULD NOT be contained by two airy slices of lightweight 75 calorie Safeway brand Wonderbread:

I could’ve gone the more sensible labor-intensive lentil stew route, but my logic was go with fast and easy, minimal prep since that’s probably more authentic and representative of the experience of someone who has zero leisure time and little energy for cooking. The result has been that I’ve almost always needed to double suggested serving sizes. Especially last night. Behold, the spaghetti basket:

I made the mistake of leaving the house to go see a play last night without filling up first, and had to drool over a burrito Cooper ate for dinner, though I snuck a lick. Gross, yes. He also offered to buy me a beer before catching himself and realizing it was VERBOTEN).

I was a hot mess by 10pm, hangry and lashing out on the bus ride home. I don’t cope well with fluctuating blood sugar. By the time I got some pasta in my belly, I was remorseful for the 5 minutes before I was knocked out by the carbs coursing through my veins. It was the first time I’d been full all day.

Today was mercifully more mellow, with work to preoccupy me, plenty of oatmeal, and when afternoon rolled around and I toyed with sneaking a handful of pretzels from the office stash or buying a piece of candy off a coworker for a nickel with my fellow Hunger Challenger and boss, Madeline (though she doesn’t like to be call that, too much like “the man”), at least I had someone to strategize/commiserate with. Like when I was on an elimination diet trying to isolate a food allergy, this “diet” has been all I can talk about. It was dull then, but at least there’s a deeper purpose to this than treating eczema. Hot!

Some observations I made today – and really some of these feel so petty and naïve given that I’m certainly not *really* hungry, and this is such a pinhole view of how it actually feels to struggle with hunger all the time. But maybe there’s some broader truth to these experiences:

  • I was really cold all morning. I mean, sure, I’m always cold, but I just couldn’t warm up.
  • My sense of smell is super heightened. Like that one time I was hiking and hungry – stopped myself from saying starving there, feels especially hyperbolic – and half panicked because I thought we might not get to camp before dark and I somehow smelled a distant fire.
  • The people I’ve talked to about the Challenge (outside my office and the Food Bank) have for the most part fallen into two camps: 1) the folks that dismiss it as routine – “oh yea, I usually don’t spend anything on food.” and 2) those who have a personal connection with it – either because they’ve taken a similar challenge, or they themselves have been on food stamps or have experienced hunger.
My parents had the former reaction initially, but now that they’re taking the Challenge, they’ve had a different experience. I’ll see if I can post my mom’s diary here. A lot of people I’m close to – family included – have revealed their own experiences with hunger and struggling to get by on a fixed income, and I’m grateful that the campaign has helped open the door to conversations that otherwise probably wouldn't have happened.

You know I initially didn’t really like the Feeding America bus stop billboard ad campaign – “Hunger takes this bus too.” I guess I saw it in a new light with McDonald's as a backdrop, as I absent-mindedly did the math of buying 20 chicken McNuggets for $4.99 and somehow making them last 5 days. Yea. SAVING THEM. And sure, I'm still not convinced it’s the best way to frame their message. But I appreciate the sentiment that it’s this silent struggle that goes completely unnoticed unless we bring it out in the open and write about it and talk about it to try and remove the stigma.


tpaperny said...


And I think the occasional sneaking of food is totally legit. I mean most people allow themselves a little treat or guilty pleasure. I feel like being on a strict/limited budget often also means learning how to push that budget, slightly break the rules, and then pay for it later.

San Francisco Food Bank said...

What a great post! Thanks so much for taking the Hunger Challenge. It's a strange head trip to plan your day around food, but to never feel really satisfied, isn't it?

Looking forward to hearing about your mom's experiences!