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We cannot be in the business of feeding people without remembering those who have little. Our company director Karl Wilder has twice lived on a food stamp budget in order to bring awareness to the problem of hunger in America. Q&A: Chef Karl Wilder Talks About Living on Food Stamps | SFoodie

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Q&A: Chef Karl Wilder Talks About Living on Food Stamps

Posted By  on Wed, Aug 17, 2011 at 11:15 AM

Karl Wilder is not your typical chef. He doesn’t spend his days cooking up fantastic gourmet food — he has taken the food stamps challenge, which means for the past month and a half, Wilder has limited himself to a budget of $1.33 per meal and struggles daily to balance nutrition and calories.

Wilder has organized a 12-hour cook-a-thon called Thanksgiving in August, which will be held on August 27 at St. Luke’s Church. The price of admission is a donation to the Food Bank, however small. Attendees can taste Wilder’s creations, and there will also be a wine tasting.

Wilder sat down with SFoodie to talk about the challenges of living on a food stamp diet.

What inspired you to do the food stamps challenge?

At the end of June, I met with Jessica Brittsan at the Food Bank and she gave me a tour of the facility. She said, maybe you want to take the food stamps challenge for a week.

When people are on food stamps, they have $1.44 per meal per person in the house. So I did the math and decided I’d be spending 33 cents per day on oil and seasoning, so I would live on $1.33 per meal.

One of my blog readers challenged me to stay on it til the event in August. He said, I think you should go til the 27th and I decided to do that because it would make more of an impact.

What has been most surprising to you, since starting the challenge?

I realized how much a cup of coffee costs. Even if you make it at home, it’s 30 cents a day! Can you imagine working a minimum wage job and not having the budget for a cup of coffee before you go to work? It’s the one thing I determined not to give up.

Also, how difficult it is to balance calories and nutrition. Before this, most of my diet was fruits and vegetables and I still ate about 2200 calories a day. I can’t afford a lot of those fruits and vegetables now. I would eat a pomegranate a day at $1.99, but I need to keep my calories up so I’m eating less healthy food and more rice and more pasta or I will run out of calories.

[He shows me how loose his jeans are] These are a 29. You know, I’m only 5’4” but I’ve lost almost 4 pounds and it’s been less than 2 months. And that’s because I focus at least part of my budget on getting vegetables so I really get now how hard it is for people to make that balance. And I take a multivitamin a day because I know I’m not eating what I need.

How do you keep track of the nutrition you’re getting?

I weigh all my food and enter every ingredient onto a program on fitday.com and then I take the table from that. So it’s actually easy, just time consuming.

What do most people on food stamps eat?

I’ve had several emails from people who are on food stamps, and one of them said she’s always feeding her family the Banquet $1 frozen meal, because it fills them up. That’s one of the ways she makes ends meet. She asked me to try some and I actually ended up trying one. I wasn’t too happy with it.

It made me feel very bloated and there’s so much junk in those. I can see why it fills her family up because most people don’t need a lot of sodium and there’s thousands of milligrams. Most people don’t need a lot of cornstarch and cornflour and all of these things that make you feel full. I felt like I was 200 pounds after having half a frozen meal. I felt disgusted.

Read integral article on SFweekly.com