Welfare Food Challenge

I don’t normally blog personally on my site, but this week is different. I am taking the Welfare Food Challenge, which, for those of you who don’t know, the challenge is to live for a week on $26 total for food. This is the amount that people on income assistance have left over to live on after paying all of their other bills, including rent, bus tickets, toiletries and phone. For more information, go to Welfare Food Challenge.

It is now day 4 of the Challenge and it is definitely a challenge.

I did not plan ahead and bought Woodward’s Peanut Butter, a loaf of whole grain bread and a dozen eggs at Nester’s the day before the challenge because I happened to be downtown. Because of this, my first day of the challenge consisted of toast and peanut butter and egg sandwiches. I did have a pear that I had in the house that I know cost me $0.50 at the market so added that into my $26 allotment. I had the hardest time not having coffee and instead had weak tea (which I costed at $0.10 per bag – this price came from a colleague also taking the challenge). I woke up on Day 2 with a terrible headache and wondered how people on social assistance would afford the Advil that I took to alleviate the pain. I must confess that I had a cup of coffee that morning.

I have since purchased foods for the challenge – $26 does not go far. I purchased bulk lentils, chickpeas, brown rice and popcorn, 5 apples, carrots, 2 oranges, 2 onions, 4 bananas, 1 can of sardines, 2 yams, 1 litre of milk.

The total is $24.91, including 14 teabags. Add to that the pear – giving a total of $25.41. I have used a little oil for cooking.

I have stopped taking the vitamins that I usually take, like Vitamin D and omega-3s. My food choices contain all the food groups, but are very deficient in vegetables. I seem to be craving foods that I know will fill me up – foods that contain high amounts of protein like eggs and peanut butter and high amounts of fiber like beans, brown rice and whole grain breads.

So far, I have been eating toast and peanut butter and banana, egg sandwiches, some fruit and carrots and a simple red lentil soup with rice and onions. I plan to add some yams to the rest of the soup for tonight’s meal and am soaking chickpeas for a different soup tomorrow.

It is always in the forefront of my mind that many on social assistance do not have fully functioning kitchens to even make a simple soup, which is probably one of the most economical and healthy ways to eat.

I realize that it is impossible to have a social life on $26 per week. Any venture out for a coffee or lunch is out of the question. I have not planned any social events this week, but have still had to attend meetings. Yesterday, I had a meeting downtown at 5:30 p.m. and had to come up with a way to take food with me – something that I could eat in the car before the meeting. I ended up with a hard-boiled egg sandwich and a cut up apple. I have had to catch myself before I say: “Let’s meet for coffee or lunch” or “How about a quick dinner.”

As I am mid-way through the challenge, what comes to mind is that this will end for me in another three and a half days. This is not the case for all BC residents. Everyone has the right to food. Changes need to be made to ensure that everyone has access to sufficient amounts of nutritious foods.

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