Hunger Challenge: They sacrificed to eat no more than $27.35 in food for a week

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Jessica Stockamp gave up her favorite yogurt.

Rita Hirschey quit drinking pop.

Krista Broberg declined invitations to go out to eat.

John Dietz didn’t go out for lunch and didn’t eat between meals.

Krista Broberg
Rita Hirschey

All four did those things and more, as they struggled to stay within a food budget of $27.35 for one week. That is the average amount of food support received per week per person in need in Minnesota last year.

It was all part of The Hunger Challenge, a week-long effort to raise awareness about hunger.

All four reflected on their experiences during a meeting last week at the Sherburne County Government Center in Elk River.

Stockamp is mayor of Otsego, Hirschey works for Sherburne County Health and Human Services, Broberg is a second grade teacher at Liberty Elementary in Big Lake and Dietz is mayor of Elk River.

John Dietz
Jessica Stockamp

Hirschey’s job includes determining if people are eligible for public assistance.

She said it was a challenge to keep within the $27.35 budget. Grocery shopping was time consuming as she shopped carefully. She used $7 in coupons and ate a lot of cheaper cuts of chicken. She also was very conscious of not letting anything go to waste.

“The first day, at least at work, I was hungry,” she said.

Hirschey said she can certainly empathize with people who have to go to the store with only a limited amount of money.

Stockamp planned carefully before shopping, making lists and checking for coupons. She shopped at several stores and knew ahead of time how much she would spend in each one.

Besides giving up her yogurt, she ate less fresh fruit because of the cost.

She also found that she had to think about portion sizes to make sure the food would last for a week. Second helpings weren’t automatic.

By the end of the week, there wasn’t much left in the refrigerator.

The Stockamps used coupons and shopping lists to make the most of their budget while shopping during The Hunger Challenge.

Overall, she thinks she gained a couple of pounds during the challenge.

Jenny Gray, director of the CAER food shelf in Elk River, said that’s not surprising since lower-priced food tends to be less healthy packaged foods. “They can’t afford to buy the lean cuts of meats and get all the fresh ingredients that cost more,” Gray said.

Dietz finished The Hunger Challenge but ended up spending $33.50 on food, which was over the budget. He and his wife, Jayne, had shopped carefully but Dietz said the budget was limiting.

“For the average person it’s enjoyable to eat,” he said. “When you’re on something like this sometimes it’s not very enjoyable. You’re just trying to eat something to sustain yourself.”

Dietz said he was nervous going into the challenge and described it as very difficult.

“I’ve never been in a situation where I had to worry about the price of a can of beans,” he said.

He also found it was hard to eat healthy, since fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods are also expensive. A big milk drinker, he missed drinking as much milk as he wanted.

Food was on his mind a lot and he said he had to keep busy to distract himself. Several days into the challenge, he was starting to get a little light headed.

The challenge ended last Saturday and the next day Dietz and his family celebrated his mother’s birthday with a brunch.

“I guess I’ve never enjoyed a meal as much as I enjoyed that one,” he said.

The Hunger Challenge was good to raise awareness, he said. He had a lot of people asking him if he was hungry.

“I don’t know if I could do it again,” Dietz said. “It was really difficult.”

Broberg said participating in the challenge was a good experience, although she found it to be isolating because she had to turn down offers to go out to eat with friends or to her parents’ house for a meal.

“It became isolating,” she said. “I don’t know if I would remain that way, but I would certainly have to form some different circles (of friends).”

The Hunger Challenge was spearheaded by Hunger Free Sherburne, a group of concerned citizens trying to eliminate hunger in the area.

For more information go to

Included on the website is a list of places where people can get help.

March is Minnesota Food Share Month, a month-long drive to collect food and raise money for food shelves.

To donate to CAER:

•Send checks to CAER, 19279 Watson St. NW, Elk River, Mn. 55330

•Donate via PayPal at CAER’s website,

•Drop off donations of non-perishable food at CAER. Hours are 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 6-8 p.m. Monday and Thursday.


What John Dietz ate during the Hunger Challenge

Sunday, March 4

Breakfast: Bowl of cereal

Lunch: Turkey sandwich, carrots, celery

Supper: Hamburger Helper, cream corn, roll, small glass of milk, chocolate pudding

Monday, March 5

Breakfast: Bowl of cereal, small glass of grape juice

Lunch: Chili, carrots, celery, small glass of milk

Supper: Ham sandwich, carrots, cream of chicken soup, milk, chocolate pudding

Tuesday, March 6

Breakfast: Bowl of cereal, cmall glass of grape juice

Lunch: Peanut butter sandwich, carrots, chicken noodle soup, milk

Supper: Spaghetti, green beans, milk

Wednesday, March 7

Breakfast: Bowl of cereal, small glass of grape juice

Lunch: Peanut butter sandwich, carrots, celery, cup of milk

Supper: Spaghetti, green beans, milk

Thursday, March 8

Breakfast: Bowl of cereal, small glass of grape juice

Lunch: Chili, carrots, celery, cup of milk

Supper: Ham sandwich, pudding

Friday, March 9

Breakfast: Bowl of cereal, small glass of grape juice

Lunch: Tomato soup, celery, two pieces of toast, cup of milk

Supper: Tuna Helper, peas, milk, chocolate pudding

Saturday, March 10

Breakfast: Bowl of cereal, small glass of grape juice

Lunch: Minestrone soup

Supper: Tuna Helper, peas, milk, Jell-O