I’m taking the San Francisco Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge for the fourth year – trying to feed my husband (the Bottomless Pit) and myself for just $4.72 each per day. The 2011 Hunger Challenge is over, and I’m back to my regular (at least my version of it) life. I went to a potluck dinner with 10 people Sunday night, and everyone was asking how the Hunger Challenge had gone. Then there was a surprise. Two people revealed that they had been on food stamps at some point in their younger days, and talked about their experiences. One of the two is a good friend, and he’d never before mentioned that he’d once relied on food stamps. Fortunately, their lives are in better places now – but it’s a reminder that hunger is truly pervasive, and that far more people than you’d expect need help temporarily. Some critics of hunger challenges have commented that participants can’t begin to approximate the real conditions of someone dealing with hunger on a daily basis. Absolutely true. But I’ve seen how the Hunger Challenge does get people talking. It does raise awareness about hunger. And, for those who take it seriously, it really does make you reflect on what a life struggling against hunger must be like. On Saturday, I bought some strawberries at the farmers market, to eat after the Hunger Challenge was over. I was cutting them up to macerate them and no, I didn’t pop a single one into my mouth. Of course, I knew – lucky me – I’d be able to dig in the following day, but as I worked, I considered all the ill-paid people in the food service industry. Busboys, dishwashers, prep cooks – they’re around food they can’t eat everyday. Quite often, these are the sorts of people who show up at San Francisco Food Bank grocery pantries – those who have jobs and work hard, but don’t earn enough in this costly city to make ends meet. The unexpected benefit from doing the Hunger Challenge every year is a great sense of gratitude for my good life. I don’t eat lavishly, and we mostly cook at home. But I have never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from. And believe me, I want to keep it that way. GET INVOLVED! ♥ Take the Hunger Challenge yourself. Sign up here. ♥ Read blogs by people taking the Hunger Challenge. There’s a blogroll here. ♥ Follow the Hunger Challengers on Twitter. There’s a listing here, or search for the hashtag #HungerChallenge. ♥ Learn more about the San Francisco Food Bank – and make a donation. For every $1 donated the food bank can supply hungry people with $6 worth of food! ♥ Follow the San Francisco Food Bank on Twitter or visit their Facebook page to see how they’re fighting hunger every day.