Erik Talkin
Paul Wellman

Two years ago, soon after being named CEO for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, I undertook a food security challenge: to live on food stamps (aka CalFresh) for a single month. For a grass-fed tenderfoot like me, surviving on $6 a day was tough. I lost weight; I lost illusions. So why am I back doing it again?

Unfortunately, everything I learn in life, I need to relearn: how to be a husband, how to be a dad, how to be a writer. The lessons fade, and then you’re in trouble. Some rude awakening makes you realize that you have to figure it all out again. So too with food stamps.

The situation in our country is worse than it was two years ago. A recovery based on low-wage jobs is forcing proud folk to seek outside food help regularly. More than 140,000 (one in four!) people in our county receive food from the Foodbank or one of our amazing 330-member nonprofit organizations (who in turn get their food from us). How can we get ourselves out of this state of affairs?

The Foodbank’s award-winning approach has always been about food and the skills to use it as being the cheapest and most effective pathway to good health. Can I take this path myself? Follow me for the next four weeks as I find out and write about my experiences on and

For week one, I will be looking at the puzzle of food stamps and why the mere mention of them ignites such impassioned responses from many of us. Week two will be focused on learning about good nutrition on the cheap from experts; week three will be about health; and in the final week, I will be drawing the threads together and exploring how we can create the sort of systemic change that could ensure the long-term health of all our friends and neighbors.

It will be an exciting, revealing ride, though I won’t be able to afford popcorn while I’m on it. Are you up for it? Take a week or take a day, but please join me. Check out the blog to find out how you can get involved or support the Foodbank’s work.



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