Sunday, October 16, 2016

Welfare Food Challenge: Meal Plan

The Welfare Food Challenge starts today. If you haven't heard of it before, the Challenge exists to highlight the inadequacy of welfare rates in BC. A single person receives only $610 a month, a rate that's been frozen for over 9 years. After you pay for the bare minimums to survive, you've got about $18 per week for food left over. (more info on the math here) Raise the Rates, with others, is working to increase awareness of the extreme poverty of people on welfare; & how this poverty costs the people of BC in human suffering & billions of wasted dollars every year.

The campaign inspired me to see what eating on $18 per person per week actually means. I sat down with an actual pen & paper, pulling up the calculator & Save On Foods app on my phone. I planned out the cheapest set of 21 meals I could think of. Here's what I came up with:

  • breakfast: on sale cereal with milk or oatmeal
  • lunch: peanut butter sandwiches with half an apple for lunch every day
  • dinner #1: boxed macaroni & cheese with wieners & frozen peas
  • dinner #2: beans, rice, & salsa with cheddar
  • dinner #3: green beans, potatoes, chicken thighs
  • dinner #4: tofu stir fry on rice
  • dinner #5: hot dogs with baby carrots
  • dinner #6: vegetarian chili with cheese
  • dinner #7: tuna rice casserole with peas & cheddar
This limited menu comes to $72, assuming I could get many of the things on sale or at dollar stores. It includes two to three servings of fruit & vegetables per day--much less than is healthy. It also assumes that we already have condiments & pantry basics like cooking oil, salt, spices, sauces. There are no snacks & no desserts. There's only enough milk for 285ml per person per day--cereal & a bit for cooking or maybe a small drink for the kids. It's also counting on a bit of savings from buying a few things in bulk for the four of us--a single person likely couldn't have even this variety of food.

I'm fairly sure it's impossible to get enough fibre, protein, or fresh fruit & vegetables on this little money. & even if you are extremely resourceful with free community meals, picking up the occasional day olds that some restaurants toss out & go to the food bank, you would still be hard pressed to eat healthily.

I can't imagine eating this way, day in & day out. There's no room for going out for treats, there's no room for birthday cake or having a friend over for dinner. There's no room for variety. The stress of shopping for food & making ends meet with this tiny budget would be soul crushing over the long term. 

While I spent an hour or so puzzling this out, I don't plan to actually eat this way this week. Most of us are recovering from bad colds & I honestly don't want to subject my small children to such poor nutrition for the week. It breaks my heart that so many children & adults in this province have to live on so little. 

Please help me send a message to our government that this needs to change. Go sign the petition to raise welfare rates & write a letter to your MLA to ask for action on the issues that impact poverty: get rid of the arduous barriers to receiving income assistance, increase the minimum wage, provide more publicly funded childcare, increase low-income housing stock, & raise the welfare rates. A sample letter is provided at this link

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