Erik Talkin, CEO of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County
Paul Wellman

“Is it possible to eat healthy on a food stamp budget?” That’s the question Foodbank of Santa Barbara County CEO Erik Talkin is seeking to answer during his second month-long Food Security Challenge. Talkin started on February 2, and is spending a mere $6.46 a day on food, the equivalent of what he would receive in food stamps (CalFresh in California), if he were in need of assistance and classified as a single, unemployed non-dependent person.

Each week, Talkin will explore a different aspect of living on food stamps, from signing up for CalFresh and finding the nonprofit services available to him as a resident on Santa Barbara’s Eastside to learning how he can grow his own food and seeking resources to eat healthy with limited funds. In Santa Barbara County, 140,575 people receive food support from the Foodbank; nearly 40% are children.

Talkin is chronicling the challenge on his blog, which the Independent is republishing on a regular basis. For more information, and to donate time and money to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and its 330 nonprofit partners, visit

February 2, Part 1: I’ll Be Back, and I Am

Welcome to my 4th semi-annual Food Security Challenge.

That makes it sound like a golf tournament, when in fact it is a tournament of focus and endurance. To see whether a well-fed nonprofit CEO can actually live for a whole month on the money that we expect millions of extremely poor people to live on.

To be exact, in my state of California, that is $6.46 per day, about the price of that ridiculously expensive coffee-like drink that you’re swilling as you scroll down this page.

Gwyneth Paltrow made it 4 days before consciously uncoupling from the challenge. Cory Booker made it a week and now he’s a senator. So in 30 days I’ll be in elected office or thinner, wiser and a little more understanding of what millions have to tackle.

This time, the focus is on senior citizens, and in our County of Santa Barbara, we have about 30,000 seniors living on an average of $900 per month. That doesn’t buy you much in the way of housing and medication, let alone nutritious food.

Last time I did the challenge, I subsisted on both the food stamp money as well as additional food that I could get at distributions local to my house on SB’s Eastside. I quickly realized that I couldn’t make it without the additional food that the Foodbank provides people through our programs and those of our 300 plus member agencies.

So I must be crazy to think I can make it work with $6.46 and a single burner with one pot and one frying pan.

Sign up to receive my posts and you’ll find out how I’m doing.

Thanks for stopping by.


Ps – I discovered yesterday that Johnny Depp is getting by on $2,000,000 per month. How will I get on with 0.002460024600246002% percent of that for my month? Now to be fair to Johnny he has to cover his other living expenses too, shelter, Gulfstream Jet, whereas I am just covering the cost of my food. So lay off Johnny!


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