SF Food Bank Hunger Challenge 2013: Day 1

On September 21st, central kitchen‘s chef de cuisine, Ryan Pollnow, will be cooking for a cause at the 2nd annual San Francisco & Marin County Food Bank Gala. To achieve perspective and a deeper understanding of the organization and the work they do, Ryan agreed to participate in The Hunger Challenge: for five days, he’ll subsist on a small grocery list of items from the Food Bank’s “pantry” – and a $4.50-a-day food budget.

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This is a major change of pace for a person whose job and passion keep him surrounded by amazing food – and tons of it. A typical workday for Ryan might start with a cappuccino and sandwich from Salumeria. At 2pm he usually indulges in an iced latte, and at four he sits down to a “family meal” (prepared for the restaurant’s staff by a different member of the kitchen crew each day) consisting of a salad, one starch or grain, and some sort of protein. At 5:30 he gets ready for service with a shot of espresso, and at the end of the night he usually finds time to sneak a torn hunk of Josey Baker sourdough and Teleme cheese as he shuts down the kitchen. Before heading home, he winds down from the day with a shift drink – usually a Green Flash IPA.

Family meal and a shift drink may be provided by the restaurant, but Ryan’s coffee drinks and sandwich alone total about $20 – nearly his whole budget ($22.50) for the next five days. Ryan is committed to strictly following the Challenge’s rules, and will be giving up everything from his above routine. His one daily Challenge-sanctioned indulgence will be a cup of regular coffee from salumeria.

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Today marked the Challenge’s first day. Ryan headed to San Francisco’s Food Bank this morning to meet other participants and pick up his week’s supply of produce: one pound of white rice, two yellow onions, three carrots, four plums, two oranges, two tomatoes, two pears, two baskets of strawberries, four potatoes, six eggs, a cantaloup, and a watermelon.

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Back at central kitchen, he devised a shopping list and meal plan for the week, then headed to a local Mission grocery store to pick up a few more items: three chicken thighs, one hamburger patty, two more pounds of rice, a pound of macaroni, garbanzo and kidney beans, a bag of small tortillas, celery, one can of tuna, a lemon, a bag of Romaine hearts, one head of garlic, three zucchinis, two Serrano peppers, and a small can of stewed tomatoes. Originally he wanted to get PB&J supplies for snacks, as well, but once at the store, he discovered that all three components were too expensive for his budget.

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All in all, he spent $19.27, leaving him $3.23 leftover for the week. He plans to save it until Friday, the last day of the challenge, and spend it on a celebratory beer.

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