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.
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