Rachel, Day 4

I ended the challenge on Day 4. Here are some thoughts you can post on the welfare challenge blog:

Day 4- I confess I ended the challenge at dinner on Day 4. I ended early for many reasons but the biggest one was my mood. After eating rice and dahl, peas and pasta, peanut butter and toast for four days, I was feeling sluggish and like the world was a dreary place. I ate the last of my two carrots with peanut butter and thought to myself “I still have three more days to go and not enough food to realistically get by”. Sure, I could have eaten oatmeal for the last couple days but really?…I gave in to dinner with a friend (salad, meat, crunch, flavour, choice) and slowly the world began to look brighter.

Here are three reflections from the last four days:

1. My experience shopping. I did not have much time to prepare for the challenge or shop around so I walked to the local low cost grocery on Tuesday night. As I walked through the doors I thought “How hard can this be really? I can totally get what I need for $26”. I expected this store would have a bulk section but soon realized it did not. This that threw a curve ball in my meal plan and budget. Halfway through shopping, I realized the numbers in my head were not looking good so I pulled out my cell phone and started calculating. Things added up quickly so I started returning items and changing my meal plan: “There go my potatoes; maybe I don’t need meat; better get the no-name brand even though I will have to sacrifice quality”.  When I approached the till I felt an unfamiliar wave of anxiety.  There must have been a look of panic on my face as I watched the numbers on the till because the cashier asked me if I was ok. After I payed the bill, I realized I only had one dollar left for the rest of the week. I was really hoping for more wiggle room.

2. I was surprised by feelings of judgement I had towards myself as I did the challenge. A strange need to defend my choices crept into conversations as if people’s comments were a personal attack- “No, this isn’t how I would usually shop; I know I could do better; next time I would make such-and-such a choice”. I felt vulnerable and under scrutiny.

3. There is a significant connection between food and relationships. I think one of the hardest aspects of the challenge (and one of the reasons I ended early) was that my limited budget also limited my social interactions. I did not have enough money to host people in my home and offer them food/hospitality. In addition, I did not have enough money to go out with friends for coffee or dinner. I acknowledge that not all social interactions need to revolve around food, but the reality is that they often do.

I will not infer how someone on social assistance thinks or feels but this is my experience trying to eat off $26 a week.

I learned a lot and have has some great discussions with friends and coworkers about poverty, social assistance, and food security. This challenge also gave me an opportunity to reflect on my response to poverty, injustice, and pain in this world.”

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