I survived the Welfare Food Challenge, but I’m happy its over. A week living on $1 meals was possible but draining. It took a lot of time to prepare our food and the meals weren’t nutritionally complete.
After realizing mid-challenge that we were lacking fat, I used some of our remaining budget to buy a jar of peanut butter. It was a real life safer and mood booster, but that might be because peanut butter is my ultimate comfort food.
At the end of the week, we still have lots of rice, beans, and flour left. We also have half a bag of carrots and half a bag of potatoes. The fresh vegetables are long gone. We obviously could have planned a better.
In many ways our ‘welfare’ experience was atypical. We planned ahead, focused on nutrition, spent long hours cooking, and used our well-stocked kitchen (with a stove and blender) to our advantage – which would haven been difficult/impossible if we were living in an SRO. The experience was a good opportunity to think about the level of social assistance we expect our government to provide and spark conversations with our friends and co-workers about welfare rates.
The most shocking thing I learned about welfare rates during this challenge is that couples on welfare receive 30% less than two individuals (couples get $877.22 while singles get $610). The biggest reason we were able to survive this challenge was because we did it as a couple. We were able to bulk buy, share cooking responsibilities, and lean on each other for support. And yet the government penalizes couples on welfare to the point that it removes all advantages. It’s no wonder that 81% of welfare recipients are singles, and only 3% are couples with no children.
This challenge also taught me that it is possible to eat simpler and save loads of money by making your own soups, baking bread, and avoiding canned beans. That is something I hope to continue with post-challenge. But I also want to be able to spend money on good food and eat out on occasion. I celebrated the end of the challenge by eating a nutritious, raw-food lunch at Gorilla Food and having a vegan donut for dessert. My lunch cost $20, almost as much as I spent on the previous 21 meals, but it was worth it.
Emily and I normally spend $270 weekly on food. While we were on the welfare challenge, we only spent $40.65. We decided to donate the difference to the Collingwood Neighbourhood House because we know they have an excellent food and nutrition program.
If you want to see changes to the welfare rates in BC, I encourage you to contact your MLA and sign this petition.