Hunger Challenge

How well can you eat off $4.03/day?

Since my car got shot up by some hooligans and a BB gun, I’ve been using public transportation a lot more so to get around. As I chased after my bus one morning, I noticed a huge notice on the rear of the bus:

And I really, really want to try it. In college, I took a Nutrition course where the final project was to create menus for breakfast, lunch, a snack, dinner and dessert that met all the daily RDI  for a week- all together under $5 a day. It was a really fun and creative project to conduct ( I will do some digging and post my menu in a separate post). But if I really had to eat all 3 of my meals under $5/day, it would be extremely difficult and timely to cost out and calculate the nutritional information as we did ( and I spent hours creating  my menu for the week). Arlington Food Assistance Center is challenging you to eat under $4.03 a day, the average amount in food supplements a person in need receives.

Below are the official Hunger Challenge Rules:

  1. Spend no more than $4.03 per day, $28.21 per week, including beverages.
  2. Don’t use food already on hand unless you deduct the value from your weekly amount. Salt and pepper don’t count, but all other seasonings, cooking oils, condiments, snacks and drinks do.
  3. Don’t accept food from family, friends, coworkers and others.
  4. Try to include fresh produce and healthy protein each day.
Frequently Asked Questions

Can I eat the food I grow?

Yes, you can eat food from your garden. AFAC provides vegetable seedlings to our clients. Of course, not all have the space or time to grow their own food.

What about my morning coffee?

Your morning trip to the local coffee shop will bust your budget so try making coffee at home. If coffee is all that is stopping you from doing the Hunger Challenge, you can make an exemption. (Be sure to appreciate your coffee even more.)

What if a friend invites me out to dinner?

You should decline, postpone, or invite your friend to participate in the Hunger Challenge and prepare a frugal meal together.

My office has bagels and other breakfast foods each Friday. Can I have some?

No. You should assume that most AFAC clients don’t work at places that provide food. Tell your co-workers about AFAC and the Hunger Challenge while they enjoy their bagels.

I found a couple of overlooked pit holes in this challenge:

I thought this would be a piece of cake, having created daily meals in college all together under $5, but my meals were costed out in terms of servings, not in individual purchases. For example, I would gratuitously use olive oil in my meal plan; however, 1 serving or tablespoon of olive oil, cost me around $.49  a tablespoon- which perfectly fits into my budget; however, to buy a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil would already cost me at least $5 bucks, already blowing my Hunger Challenge. So I wonder- do all my purchases and subsequent consumption have to be under $4.03/day for the Hunger Challenge, or just the meals in and of themselves under $4.03/day?

Also, $28.21 is  the amount of  SNAP an individual receives- the “S” stands for Supplemental (Nutrition Assistance Program), so in ADDITION to the money they already use from their personal finances to contribute towards food. So a big question for AFAC : how much does the average person who receives SNAP personally spend on food from their own personal finances before receiving the supplement?

Have you ever taken the AFAC Hunger Challenge?


Pepe, Catch Me If You Can

pepito de ibérico

chocolate and hazelnut ice cream flauta

Spain is on the streets of D.C. Seared beef tenderloin, caramelized onion, piquillo pepper confit and bleu cheese dressing, a luscious pepito de ternera, is served not at a Zagat rated restaurant with a waiter, but handed to you curbside…from a  truck.  José Andrés’ truck, Pepe.

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Sticky, Sweet, Cruelty Free

Was it pure heaven or pure torture, to be trapped in a room full of the dizzying scent of baking chocolate , caramelizing sugar, and melting butter, knowing I could not have it? At least, not yet. So I carelessly ate the leftover smudges of  brownie and cake batter, scraping my bowl clean because there were no eggs in the batter and salmonella poisoning was really just not an option ( still had calories though…)

The best cupcake  I’ve ever tasted in my life, barring my extreme affection for Red Velvet Cupcakery Key Lime cupcake, has been Doron Petersan’s Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Spiced Rum Frosting, matched  with a strong Dark & Stormy ( recipe below). I had the extreme pleasure of taking a vegan baking class with Petersan, two time winner of The Cupcake Wars and  owner of Sticky Fingers bakery in Washington, D.C., where I learned how to bake one of her award winning vegan cupcakes (sans coconut custard filling and cracked brown sugar brittle) and brownie from her latest cookbook, Sticky Fingers’ Sweets: 100 Super Secret Vegan Recipes.

 The cupcake, an aromatic baked  dream inspired by The Rolling Stones, is unbelievably vegan: the cake was  warm, fragrant, and perfectly sweet- not trying too hard like it had to make up for anything just because it was vegan.  The frosting was a mildly spiced, light, creamy whipped buttery sensation, a sweet cumulus cloud sitting atop  a feather bed of cake. It reminded me of drinking a very light Hot Buttered Rum and chai all at once- but in cupcake form.

Creamy Sweet & Sara vegan marshmallows and crushed graham crackers lackadaisically topped the giant, steaming chocolate squares of vegan S’mores brownies. Marie Antoinette never experienced such absurd decadence as sinking her teeth into one of these brownies. It was not so much the flavor of the brownie that really made my heart race ( although that could have been due to the copious amounts of sugar and alcohol I’d already consumed), but the perfect texture.

Of course the brownie was sinfully chocolate-y and sweet, but it was so much more satisfying with the perfect balance of enough structure and texture- a 10 out of 10 mouth-feel.  Once baked, the batter held a firm brownie shape, while the graham crackers, marshmallows and hidden chunks of chocolate chips broke up  any uniformity; yet it was pillow-y soft, melt in your mouth smoothness. I am a brownie corners kind of  girl, but even I reached for the soft middle of the pan.  We washed down the s’mores brownies with  Young’s Double Stout, a chocolate malt stout combined with real dark chocolate.

The best part about the whole experience was that it was uncomplicated. It was just as straight forward as non-vegan baking, except you could feel a lot less guilty about yourself after you finished stuffing your face. Vegan baking has gotten a lot heat for being “weird,” “hippie,” “health-obsessed” and the fact that it will “never taste as good as a real insert-various-baked-good-here.” But I challenge a “real” cupcake or brownie to taste even half as good as Petersan’s vegan ones.

Dark and Stormy courtesy of the White Horse Tavern


  • Ice
  • 1/4 lime
  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 10 ounces of ginger beer
  • Lime wedge, for garnish, optional


  1. Fill a 12-ounce glass with ice.
  2. Squeeze the lime wedge over the ice in the glass.
  3. Drop the wedge into the glass. Pour the rum into the glass.
  4. Add the ginger beer.
  5. Stir lightly and garnish with another lime wedge, if desired


The Cradle of Culture

It is said that a person from Karabakh swears on 3 things

his mother’s milk

the Koran

and bread…

International  culinary consultant  and food historian Amy Riolo explores the history of Azeri cuisine through her freshly pressed cookbook:  The Cuisine of Karabakh; Recipes, Memories, and Dining Traditions from Azerbaijan’s Cradle of Culture. It is a cook book meant to trace the roots of those dealing with the diaspora of Karabakh, Azerbaijan. At the Culinary Historians of Washington, D.C. monthly meeting on May 6th, Riolo gave its members just a taste of Karabakh’s historically influenced cuisine.

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Trucko de Mayo

Saturday, 5/511:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Local food trucks all come together for Trucko de Mayo, a free daylong festival to benefit ECO City Farms and Common Good City Farm. Dozens of trucks will sell their food, so you can mix and match bites, listen to live music or hang out with beer, all in the name of a good cause. RFK Stadium, Lot 3, 22nd St. NE (at E. Capitol St.);

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