CCPA Policy Note

My Welfare Food Challenge: Day 7 – The End

October 22nd, 2013 · · 3 Comments · Poverty, inequality & welfare

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 house-bound.
  • 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% 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 BC. 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:

My Welfare Food Challenge: Day 1 post (includes preparation)

My Welfare Food Challenge: Day 2 post

My Welfare Food Challenge: Day 3 post

My Welfare Food Challenge: Day 4 and 5 post

My Welfare Food Challenge: Day 6 post

Here’s a photo of nine of us who took the challenge this year:

Some of People who Took the Welfare Food Challenge

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    3 Comments so far ↓

    • Nate Bello

      Why does society hate and fear those in poverty? Who has done research into this fact?

    • D A

      One big item that has been missed in this experiment is that Disabled and Welfare recipients are supported for only 48 weeks of the year, instead of 52 weeks, as others do.
      If there are 5 or even 6 weeks between cheque issuance dates, not one extra cent is available. Try spreading that $26 over one or two extra weeks. Utilities don’t stop at 4 weeks, nor does one’s transportation needs. Still, only one visit to the Food Bank.
      It is nice that folks are offering their advice to purchase food and pair up to share expenses, housing,etc.
      What has not been mentioned is that if you pair up with someone for housing and food, both of your cheques will be cut in half.
      Then, you have two people left to attempt to survive on what one person is expected to.
      I am a disabled adult. Friends and family used to suggest that I should invite a certain lady that I know, to move in with me, to share our lives and expenses .
      This lady is on Disability Assistance as well. We each scrape by, per month, individually. Were we to live together, we would be expected to live on what ONE of us receives now.
      BC’s well-paid politicians believe that we disabled are getting rich off our province’s benefits and need no more consideration, other than the brushoff reminder that one can visit the Food Bank or Soup Kitchen.
      I did not ask to be disabled, nor to be legally ignored for 90%+ of all jobs.
      I worked full-time for 35+ years, before I lost my sight. Deemed unemployable and not 65 years old, CPP will only pay $140 per month, which is taxable.
      But, more important, the BC government takes that $140, right off the top, of any BC benefits.