rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

My welfare food challenge: Day 7 and the end

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Well, I've made it to the end of my week eating only what I could buy for $26. But eating the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner for seven days is no damn fun. I can't wait to eat something different and fresh.

Did a final weigh-in this morning. I lost 4-5 lbs. this week. And while I had enough quantity of food to make it through the week, I was often hungry between meals.

Some final summary thoughts on this experience:

-  A food allowance of $26 is insufficient to eat a healthy diet. The food one can afford is not fresh, lacks a mix of protein and nutrients, and is heavy on carbs that leave one feeling hungry shortly after a meal.

-  The smallest unexpected cost throws your budget out the window.

-  Living this way, one thinks about food all the time, and planning meals is a perpetual task. Eating out is out of the question. You are housebound.

-  If you don't have access to a good kitchen, you're hooped.

-  Living this way is stressful, bad for your health, and filled with small but regular indignities.

We need to raise welfare rates!

Among the key findings of our 2008 study that followed 60 people on assistance: living this way forces people to make harmful choices; the inadequacy of welfare rates leads many women to remain in abusive relationships for financial reasons, and compels many to resort to criminal activity. And it means people spend inordinate time in survival mode, ironically at the cost of searching for work (which is what the government says people are supposed to be doing). Making ends meet on a welfare budget requires all manner of creative and desperate measures.

Rates have been frozen since 2007. That means the real (after-inflation) value of a welfare cheque has lost about 10 per cent since that time. And the cost of food often increases faster than the general inflation rate (CPI). Add to that expected increases in hydro rates, and energy poverty will become more acute (putting additional pressure on each welfare cheque).

The blog diaries of others who have taken the challenge this week also make for very compelling reading. You can find them here.

And you can take action on this issue too. The folks running the Welfare Food Challenge have created a "take action" section of their website, with a few ideas, including a petition calling on the provincial government to raise social assistance rates in B.C. You can find it here.

Now that this week is over, it's up to all of us to help keep this issue alive.

If you'd like to read the rest of my Welfare Food Challenge blog posts (and the many comments), you can find them here.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.