Suzanne Johnson, Day 3

Saturday, 18 October 2014 – Why $21

Today I feel a little better than I have the first two days. I still have a headache but its not as bad as it was yesterday. My mind doesn’t feel like its functioning quite right and my stomach is not particularly happy, let’s just say that I am totally aware that it is there. I was super happy to purchase four spartan apples with the remaining money (0.95) at the fruit stand in Trout Creek. They had the best price per pound being a full 50 cents per pound cheaper than the grocery stores.

I came up with a novel recipe as well. Cold/raw peanut butter cabbage rolls – spread peanut butter on cabbage and roll it up. – simple. If you like peanut butter you can’t go wrong with this one, its sweet and crunchy. I tried to offer some to my partner though and he said he didn’t want to put my $21 meal budget in jeopardy, so he passed. I am still not convinced that it was the real reason. The food highlight of the day was definitely the locally grown apple and today proves to be my highest fruit and vegetable intake yet with 4.5 Canada Food Guide Servings.

I also got creative with the ramen noodles again, this time as a stuffing along with the black beans in my cooked cabbage rolls.
Photo of Suzanne's cabbage rolls
So lets discuss the $21/week budget. On-reserve social assistance rates are the same as income assistance rates for the rest of the province (on paper at least, but that is another story). A single able-bodied person, who is expected to look for work, receives a total assistance of $610 per month. This rate has not changed for the past 7 years, so when you factor in the loss due to inflation it is $76.

Total Welfare = $610
Rent (realistic rent for single room occupancy) = $450
Room damage deposit = $20
Book 10 bus tickets to look for work = $21
Cell phone (to look for work) = $25
Personal Hygeine/Laundrey = $10
Total Non Food Expenses = $525
What’s left for food = $84

Can’t Afford a Home or Food
The average rent for an SRO in the Downtown Eastside, just about the lowest rent in BC, is now $450. The government only allows a maximum of $375 out of the $610 for rent, so people have to spend their food money to get a bed – usually with little or no cooking facilities, a shared bathroom between 12 or more people, and often shared with various pests.

For a single parent with 2 children the lowest average rent in the Lower Mainland for a 2 bedroom (overcrowding!) is in Maple Ridge, $888 (most of Metro Vancouver is over $1,000). However, the province provides a maximum of $660 for rent for a single parent with 2 children whether the parent is able boded or on disability.

The Deititians of Canada state that for a basic healthy diet – no luxuries, no coffee, etc – a healthy adult women should spend around $200 a month while for an adult man it is around $250.

So I am working with only 42% of the required food budget for a no-frills healthy diet.

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