Denise Swanson, Day 3

My vantage point – more aptly called ADvantage point – makes it seem highly unfair to compare me – briefly attempting to live off a $3.72 daily food budget – with those on welfare who have countless disadvantages.

I have a car. I work only part-time (freeing time and energy to do these endless budgeting calculations). I have a spacious, warm house with all the amenities most people take for granted, such as private full bathroom, where I can soak quietly in the tub to de-compress, any time I like. More importantly, I not only HAVE a kitchen: it contains a gas stove and oven, a full-sized fridge, dishwasher, toaster over, hot water dispenser, rice cooker, slow cooker, spice grinder, espresso maker, milk frother, and on and on. Things that make life CHEAPER in the long run. Food costs way more if someone has to make it for you because you can’t afford the basic equipment

Being financially, nutritionally, and otherwise stressed makes it hard to focus depleted and scattered energy on something that ought not to be very demanding: feeding oneself on a basic level.

As someone who went vegan 10 years ago to permanently boycott extreme animal cruelty – and only later learned the stunning array of health benefits a well planned vegan diet offers (as well as reduced environmental degradation) – I have had plenty of time to become an amateur nutrition expert. The average person, however,  is appallingly ignorant on basic nutrition; therefore, living on an extremely constricted food budget puts them at very major risk of malnutrition. Which, of course, would only serve to escalate other life struggles, such as parenting, working, and resisting addictive substances.

Dietitians have found that very basic acceptable nutrition requires $50 – $60 weekly per person; Twenty-six dollars is a recipe for disaster, and will continue to cost the government much more than it ‘saves’ until redressed. The bottom line is that funding to those on welfare needs to be dramatically increased.

Personal Experience on the Welfare Food Challenge

On only Day Three, I’m really quite weary of all the food budget calculations and bargain hunting that are necessary on an ongoing basis.

I haven’t experienced hunger, but meeting nutrients, including calorie requirements, has been sketchy, even with concerted effort.

It’s been disruptive to my social life, not to be able to enter any food establishment. My usual daily cappuccino is $4.60, not including tip, which already greatly exceeds my daily food budget on the Challenge, without having a single bite of food!

The cafe comprises a daily social network that I look forward too, so I’m feeling rather isolated. It also had given me the incentive to walk 50 minutes daily (there and back).

In addition, a friend wanted to go out to tea this week; I had to explain that I can’t afford a beverage in a cafe on this budget, and am required not to accept gifts or charity for the week.

On Sunday, my church will have a fund-raising lunch, which I will also have to forgo, since it is usually $7, which is two full day’s worth of food on welfare.

Thus, the inadequate food budget, in addition to physical detriments,  has also impoverished my social life and taken away my motivation to get that daily walk.

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