Tracey Kliesch, Day 7

Final Day It’s our final day on the welfare food challenge! I have been waiting for this to be over since the moment we began. It has been a tough, tough week with lots of moments of reflection. Attempting to feed yourself on $21 a week consumes (literally) everything you do. I have been constantly making sure that what we have will get us through and always making sure Aiden has enough (which means I take less). $21 a week takes the joy out of food. It has become a utility with… Read More

Stephanie Smith, Day 7

Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President • For me this is a challenge, for thousands of others it’s a reality Deciding to take the Welfare Food Challenge for a week, I committed to eating only the food I could buy for just $21. It’s an annual event organized by Raise the Rates, a community advocacy group supported by the BC Government Employees’ Union (BCGEU). $21 a week –that’s just $3 a day! Less than the cost of the latte most of us have each morning. I prepared for the challenge by dutifully shopping at… Read More

Jenny Kwan, Day 7

Welfare Food Challenge – My Reflections It cannot be forgotten that each day, over 175,000 people in BC alone experience what each welfare food challenge participants went through this last week. As a participant, each day, I go to bed hungry and, each morning, I wake up hungry. My hunger is never satisfied, as each ration is simply not enough. The only way to stop the hunger is to go to sleep. I find myself obsessed with thinking about food. I constantly review how I might better ration my food so that… Read More

Barb Ryeburn, Day 7

The Food Challenge is Over: Feeling Extremely Privileged The last few days of the Welfare Food Challenge were easier than I’d thought they would be. Although I was low in energy and went to bed early each night, in the back of my mind, I knew I was almost done and that on Tuesday, I would be able to eat and drink whatever and whenever I wanted. I finished the challenge last night. It felt wonderful to wake up to a latté and Greek yogurt for breakfast and to know that I… Read More

Barb Ryeburn, Day 5

Day 5 and feeling socially isolated I have started realizing how much food is part of my social life. My brother is in town and wanted to get together for a coffee. I don’t have any money left in my budget for food, so had to tell him I couldn’t make it. Tonight, I had arranged to meet with friends for a supper and a musical evening. I had already told them I’d have to join them after supper because of the food challenge. I’ve ended up cancelling the evening because, like… Read More

Ashley Bodkin, Day 4

The day of celebration: Today seemed like a cruel joke. I went to a work related meeting only to find out that it was a meeting at all but a celebration of all the hard work we have done this year. The first part of the celebration was of course food I could not partake in which included cake, paninis, candy, and wraps. Directly after the celebration I was working at an event at my branch where of course we were serving food … really delicious looking and smelling food! This challenge… Read More

Peter Reale, Day 4

Yesterday it really hit home … going to bed hungry and the awful feeling knowing what so many people live through day in and day out. Change is needed!

Jennifer Taylor, Day 4

Day 4 proved to be just as bad as day three. Continued headache (thank goodness I can afford Advil). Poor concentration and low energy continues, along with irritability and frustration. Breakfast: oatmeal, lunch: half a banana and half an apple, dinner: pasta with tomato sauce. I could only eat about half my bowl of pasta as I became full early – my body is getting used to having not enough food which is not a healthy spot to be in.

Barb Ryeburn and Kim Eaton, Day 4

Food for Barb Ryeburn and Kim Eaton on Day 4 of the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Day 4 and feeling it! I was feeling pretty good about my ability to get through the welfare food challenge until about three in the afternoon yesterday. Up until then, I had thought that the main challenges I would have to overcome were pretty minor. My main inconvenience was having to eat the same food day after day. Oatmeal and peanut butter for breakfast, salad for lunch, and lentils with potatoes for supper get pretty boring after you’ve eaten them three days in a row. Yesterday, when I came home to see… Read More

Jennifer Taylor, Day 3

Day 3 was a tough one. Seriously losing my ability to concentrate, very low energy and a horrendous migraine that ran all day. What I also didn’t anticipate was my lack of appetite. I was hungry but had no desire to eat the food available to me. This meant a day with not enough calories and very few nutrients. Breakfast: oatmeal, lunch: can of soup and half a banana, dinner: half an apple and a carrot.

Monika Smith and her Mom, Day 3

I was very hungry upon waking, so I made pancakes from an eggless pancake recipe and had a glass of milk, for lunch I will be eating soup, and for dinner I am making chilli, with half a banana as a snack, that is an estimated caloric intake of 1,220, and an estimated loss of 515 calories due to work, leaving a grand total of 705 calories, which is very low. Monika’s Mom Ate pancakes with a glass of milk, will be having soup for lunch, and will be having chilli for… Read More

Lou Black, Day 3

Day 3 food for Lou Black in the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

My strategy for this is working way better than last year’s. I found ways to make the food taste ok but I’m not sure I have enough to take me through 4 more days. I am about 100 times more mindful of not wasting anything, and am finishing everything on my plate. I started to plan a party for Sun that would have been pretty food focused and realized I couldn’t … Food probably factors into 50% or more of my socializing. So that can’t mean good things if you consistently have… Read More

Peter Reale, Day 3

This really creates awareness of the challenges people face every single day. For breakfast a cup of coffee/one piece of toast and lunch piece of bread and hard-boiled egg. Missing my fruits and vegetables but knowing there is little I can do right now to change this today…very eye opening!

Lily Wong, Day 3

November 5, 2015 • Breakfast: A piece of toast and a banana Lunch: Noodles stir-fry, an apple, guacamole, nachos and a boiled egg Dinner: Noodles stir-fry I no longer eat for enjoyment; I eat for sustenance. One of my classes instructed us to form groups to make guacamole and nachos and it was honestly the best meal that I have had in days because I have been eating apples and bland noodles every day. I also really miss eating flavourful food with lots of sauce. The guacamole and nachos didn’t keep me… Read More

Sarah Khan, Day 3

Groceries bought by Sarah Khan for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

I purchased this food for the Welfare Food Challenge for $18.60. It’s day 3 of the challenge and I’ve eaten about half of the food. The food I purchased is pretty healthy, but I am going to be really tired of it after this week. Also I can’t afford to buy any green vegetables. I have $2.60 left but I am allocating that money for tea bags and milk as I have been using the tea bags and milk at work as I need a bit of caffeine to get through the… Read More

Ashley Bodkin, Day 2

Pasta, day 2, Ashley Bodkin

This is not pasta L Yesterday was hard. I was in a first aid course. I arrived early and was waiting for a friend at the skytrain station. It was cold and my first thought was to go inside a nearby coffee shop and grab a coffee, but of course I didn’t have money for this so I waited outside in the cold. When I got home for dinner I was starving! We decided to make “spaghetti” unfortunately the spaghetti sauce I bought (it came in a bag) was more like ketchup… Read More

Monika Smith and her Mom, Day 2

I ate leftover biscuits from yesterday&rquo;s breakfast and just drank water due to a queasy feeling in my stomach, that feeling by lunchtime was in my throat so I could not eat lunch because it hurt to swallow, and I could not eat dinner for the same reason, I did manage to eat half a banana as a snack. My total caloric intake was 404, and I lost 520 calories due to work, for a grand total of -116 calories, which is very, very bad, and I did go to bed hungry…. Read More

Jennifer Taylor, Day 2

So 2 days into the challenge and while I’ve been able to stay fed, have been having a lot of feelings in this experience. Concern that my food will not last is a big one. I’ve also felt pity from friends and family who are partaking in social meals and treats that I cannot take part in. That is not a good feeling at all and very isolating. Today I woke up with a cold and so like many people, I went and got some medicine. However, the vast majority of folks… Read More

Earyn Wheatley & Deanna Ogle, Day 2

Welfare Food Challenge – Charity or Justice? Yesterday was our first day of the challenge but not our first day of work in preparing food. We bought dried black beans as part of our staples to help provide a bit of protein. We soaked the beans and put them in a slow cooker overnight together with a few slivers of onion, garlic, dried chilies and a portion of our canned tomatoes. We went to sleep confident that we were totally on top of the food situation. I woke up early to review… Read More

Carol Lewis, Day 2

As Canada inaugurates her new Prime Minister, I work methodically through Day Two of the challenge. Yesterday and today I had Hot Chocolate (with a Tablespoon of cream) and hot cooked rolled oats (with a Teaspoon of butter melted in). For lunch I had a tortilla wrapped sandwich of chicken, onion, bell pepper, a skinny sliver of avocado and finely minced cabbage. For supper yesterday and today, I had rice and beans. The Canada Food Guide ( recommends 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, 6 servings of grains, 3 servings of… Read More

Lou Black, Day 2

Lou Black Food for Day 2 of the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Yogurt and my ‘flour, oats, margarine’ version of granola for breakfast. Yikes, the tub of yogurt is almost done! Stir fry and rice for lunch and dinner. It looks appetizing but lacked some flavour and isn’t especially filling … It is really different to think about rationing. I had a meeting tonight where Indian food was being served. That was tough to sit through. It helped me think about the absurdity of having an abundance of food and decadent restaurants in our province yet people go hungry here every day.

Lily Wong, Day 2

November 4, 2015 • Breakfast: A piece of toast, an egg and a banana. Lunch: Noodle stir-fry, 2 apples and an egg. Dinner: Instant noodles and an apple. Today was tough; I was very lethargic the whole day and I am not sure if it’s due to lack of sleep or lack of food or both. All I know is that food was on my mind. I had a full work day and during one of my meetings, it was challenging to be attentive and contribute to the group because of the… Read More

Audrey Anne Guay, Day 1

Meal for Audrey Anne Guay on Day 1 of the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

This week, my community and I are participating in the welfare food challenge. I, along with others in the province of BC, will be eating only what can be bought with $21, the money left over for food on a welfare budget. No food banks, no free food, no access to pantry or garden. Today, I ate an orange for breakfast, 2 eggs + 2 pieces of toast for lunch, and lentil soup for dinner. Not a bad first day, and after a long day, I am feeling fed. Here is the… Read More

Wendy Au Yeung, Day 1

Watch the video for some of my reflections. DAY 1 of Welfare Food Challenge! IN SHORT: I only have ~$3 left for this week, was sad to miss out on a community meal with my neighbours because we are not allowed to receive free food or use any form of food charity, and realize how time and energy consuming it is to ensure your food dollars stretch to the last penny. WHAT I ATE Breakfast: boiled egg + black coffee Lunch: tomato pasta with chickpeas and spinach Dinner: red lentil soup with… Read More

Melanie Steele, Day 1

Today was the first day of the Welfare Food Challenge and I’m feeling a whole bunch of things at once. I am saddened by the fact that so many people in BC don’t have enough to eat. I am angry that we live in a place with so much excess, while so many have so little. I feel guilty that I complained about hunger pains after less than 24 hours of this challenge. I am grateful for the support that I am already receiving on social media. My head is pounding, my… Read More

Jenny Kwan, Day 1

Dinner for Jenny Kwan on Day 1 of 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

After #WelfareFoodChallenge Boiled all the eggs, packed in suitcase. Lunch: 1toast &apple. Headed to airport @bifnaked @melaniejmark Couldn’t wait to eat my boiled egg for dinner so had it for a snack. Was too hungry. Dinner: peanut butter sandwich & 1 kiwi. Still hungry, drank lots of water. Going to bed early so I don’t have to think being hungry.

Monika Smith and her Mom, Day 1

I made biscuits with white gravy with a glass of milk for breakfast, had a can of soup for lunch and just drank water, and made spaghetti with garlic and herb sauce for supper and just drank water, and half a banana for a snack. My total caloric intake was 1,725, and I lost 517 calories due to work, for a grand total of 1,208 calories, which is low, but I felt fine, I was not hungry. Monika’s Mom Ate biscuits with white gravy and a glass of milk. Had a can… Read More

Lindsay Bissett, Day 1

Lunch for Lindsay Bissett on Day 1 of the Welfare Food Challenge

Lunch day one: veggies seasoned with ramen noodle spices. After eating I realize that I’m full but not at all satisfied. Enjoying food is a luxury on $21/day

Susan Martin, Day 1

Day 1 of the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge for Susan Martin

November 3, 2015 – Day 1 of the Welfare Food Challenge When is being sick (as in sore throat, congestion, fatigue and a lack of interest in anything but sleep) a good thing? When you have to cut back on eating. I woke up yesterday (Monday, November 2) feeling kind of yucky – sore throat and a bit feverish – but had stuff to do so shrugged it off. By 6:00 pm on Monday I was shivering, my throat was throbbing and I went to bed at 8:00 pm and slept through… Read More

Bif Naked, Day 1

Dinner for Bif Naked, Day 1 of the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Last night’s #WelfareFoodChallenge dinner: my ration of eggplant + zucchini @RaisetheRates @JennyKwanBC

Lily Wong, Day 1

November 3, 2015 • Breakfast: A banana, one piece of toast and a cup of tea. Lunch: Small portions of noodle stir fry with no sauce, a banana, a cookie, half an egg sandwich Dinner: Three apples, an egg and noodle stir-fry The night before the challenge, I bought most of my groceries and I had $4 left. I decided to make a large stir-fry of noodles, lettuce, and meat that I am hoping to last me for three or four days. I planned on dividing it into 6-7 portions and pair… Read More

Carol Lewis, Day 1

For the week of Nov. 3 to 9th, two public figures – motivational speaker and singer/songwriter New Delhi-born Bif Naked, and Hongkong born NDP Vancouver East MP Jenny Kwan – are joining over 170,000 people on welfare in their struggle to eat well on $21 a week. In the 60 years I have been alive, I had the absolute luxury of living above the poverty line for 26 years. While married for 26 years, I was able to be a stay-at-home mom, with a family income easily above the LICO (Low Income… Read More

Ashley Bodkin and Vaughn, Day 1

My weekend was not spent participating in Halloween festivities but rather spent shopping around the city for the best deals. I was surprised how upsetting it was and the recurring thought I keep having is, thank god I don’t have to feed children on this budget. I opted for more food, less health … and still wondering if that was the best choice. After the seven days are over I may never eat ramen noodles again. As I started the challenge this morning the first notable change was my coffee. I love… Read More

Brigit King and Colby, Day 1

Food bought by Brigit King and Colby for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Last night, Colby and I went grocery shopping for the Welfare Food Challenge. We had $42 to spend between the two of us. The experience was much more stressful than I had anticipated. I consider myself quite savvy when it comes to budgeting, but as I scoured the shelves for the lowest prices, I realized that I’ve never had a hard line when I comes to my food allowance. I was no longer looking at the nutritional value of food, only the dollar value. Although we carefully selected items averaging around two… Read More

Bunny Horne, Prep for the Challenge

Groceries that Bunny Horne bought for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

I had a list of items | wanted to purchase and felt confident I could buy them within the $21. I want this challenge to be pure. By that I mean, if a person on a fixed income can’t travel large distances to obtain their groceries, neither can I. Someone suggested a place in Vancouver – not a food bank, but where donated food is sold in small quantities for low prices. I no longer live in Vancouver so it wouldn’t be practical for me to make the trek to Vancouver to… Read More

Bif Naked, Prep for the Challenge

Food that Bif Naked bought for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge.

I was ecstatic about my haul of food for a week! I had to be. Part of my responsibility as a participant in the 2015 #welfarefoodchallenge was to eat only what I could purchase for $21.00, the amount that is estimated for most people on welfare have to eat with, weekly. As a #vegan I need to try and stay true to how I want to eat. I have tried to be pragmatic in my choices, and I will divide these equally for seven days, as I did last year: seven bananas,… Read More

Angela Lam, Prep for the Challenge

Food bought by Angela Lam for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Shopping for the challenge I went to Superstore and was able to buy all of this for just under $16. I usually do not eat this much packaged food but I do not have a choice and for me, I usually lean protein and lots of green vegetables so I will need to eat tofu with soy sauce (miso soup style) and the processed meat I bought – wieners and bologna and ration my 1 head of lettuce. I thought I could buy some instant coffee but it was $6 a jar… Read More

Earyn Wheatley and Deanna Ogle, Prep for the Challenge

Food bought by Earyn Wheatley and Deanna Ogle for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Food for the week for Deanna and I. We tried to get foods that would go together in a variety of ways, and took advantage of sales on some of the cheapest produce. Our total came to $37.48 leaving $4.52 for a mid-week small produce shop.

Melanie Steele, Prep for the Challenge

Photo of food that Melanie Steele bought for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Today is the first day of the Welfare Food Challenge. For the next week, I will only be eating what I could manage to buy with 21 dollars. I won’t be accepting any freebies, donations, or poaching from my garden or deep-freeze. 21 dollars does not seem like a lot for food. That’s because it isn’t. Having said that, I was surprised with what I was able to purchase for 21 dollars. I went to two different stores, both within walking distance of my house. I had checked flyers online over the… Read More

Jennifer Chieh Ho

Photo of the groceries bought by Jennifer Chieh Ho for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

I had to look in the “clearance” section to buy most of my groceries for this week’s challenge. It was not easy to spend only $21 for my week long groceries

Laurel Burton, Prep for the Challenge

Photo of Laurel Burton’s food for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

$21 worth of food.

Melanie Mark, Prep for the Challenge

Food that Melissa Mark bought for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Food for the week for Maya (12) Makayla (5) and I. We are taking the challenge to take stock of our privilege…Exercise in empathy /compassion for those who face this reality 365 days a year. Quick fact: 30000 children live in poverty in BC. We can and must do better so that people can thrive and not just survive.

Macarena Cataldo

Food that Macarena Cataldo bought for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Today Monday 2nd, I bought all my food, I spent $20.60. I found vegetables and fruit in a very cheap grocery on Hastings. However, some of my fruit is not in very good conditions. I tried to do a healthy buy, however it was very difficult. I spent more than 1 hour deciding between different foods. I use to look all the diet information in the back side on the food, but having just 21 dollars you can not decide the best food for you, you don’t have freedom of choice.

Sarah Stott, Prep for the Challenge

Food bought by the Stott Family for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

The day before: No food for the soul So, we’re feeling a little nervous with our food purchases for the week – will the food last us, fill us, and nourish us? Have we made some key errors in our planning that will become blindly apparent near the end of the 7 days? For our family of 4, we have a budget of $84 for the week. Usually, we’ll spend around $300 for a healthy, varied and often organic diet for our active family (and for Darren who is a 6ft 3… Read More

Lindsay Bissett, Prep for the Challenge

Photo of food bought by Lindsay Bissett for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Balancing hungry & healthy was hard enough. For $21/week I couldn’t even think about local. #welfarefoodchallenge Officially ready for the #welfarefoodchallenge! Best I could do with $21.. it’ll be a hard week. @RaisetheRates

Barb Ryeburn, Prep for the Challenge

Food that Barb Ryeburn bought for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Planning for the challenge, October 31, 2015 Tuesday is the start of the Welfare Food Challenge. My husband, Kim, and I have made the commitment to eat only the food that we are able to purchase with $21 each for the week. This is the amount that Raise the Rates has determined is available for food to people living on social assistance once they have covered all their other basic costs. I’m hopeful that by participating in this campaign, I’ll develop a deeper understanding of one of the many challenges people living… Read More

Annie Ohana, Prep for the Challenge

Photo of the food that Annie Ohana bought for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Bought $21 dollars worth of food. The plan is as follows: 150gr of yogurt with sprinkling of sunflower seeds for breakfast each day. 50gr of salad plus two eggs for lunch A banana as a snack for 5 days Vegetables plus couscous for a second snack… And for dinner … beans and tuna … plus couscous. This will have to be measured down to the last bit … no room for error … no room for side snacks like nuts, fresh fruit. Shopping was hard … 18 hour days with stress levels… Read More

Lily Wong, Prep for the Challenge

Photo of Lily Wong’s food for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Post #1 – The Night before the Challenge (November 2, 2015) Initially, when I first registered for the challenge, I wasn’t nervous about the challenge at all but I was excited to have this learning experience. How naïve was I! However, as the weeks went by, I became very aware of how little $21 was and how easily it could be spent in a day. Even as I was shopping for groceries for the week, I felt stressed and disappointed because I realized how limited I was in my choices. I didn’t… Read More

Mairi Buhler, Prep for the Challenge

Mairi Buhler’s food for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge.

My food for the week. I really thought I could do better. My strategy was to eat the same think for breakfast every day and rotate two entrees throughout the week for lunch and dinner. Items I left in the cart and could not afford: cherry tomatoes and crackers….the foods I was planning on having as snacks. My bill came in at $20.86

Cherie Devisser, Prep for the Challenge

Photo of Cherie Devisser’s food for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Day T -1 and counting… Well tomorrow is the first day of my experience living on the same benefits of someone living on welfare. The weekend was challenging finding $21 worth of food with any sense of nutritional value. You can’t buy nutrition in this kind of budget. Worried about how I will feel this week with all of the crazy unknown garbage I will ingest in the coming 7 days. I had a thought as I went through the shopping process. I realized when all you have is $21 to spend,… Read More

Ilene Toth, Prep for the Challenge

Photo of Ilene’s Food for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Well it has been a very interesting day. My daughter Tiffene has decided to join the challenge with me. We had a whole $42.00 to spend for our food this week. Seriously I cannot believe how little this amount buys. I have attached a picture of “Team Toth” (Tiffene and I) as well as a picture of the food we bought for the week. We paid $36.79, leaving just over $5.00 for bread and/or fruit for later in the week. The Food Challenge begins on Tuesday November 3, 2015, I will do… Read More

Oriana, Prep for the Challenge

Food that Oriana bought for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

I am taking the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge in British Columbia. I will live off of $21 food budget for 1 week. I am a 37 year old Vancouver resident on disability. On disability you get $900 a month and welfare $610. I am very lucky that a few years ago I was given a spot in B.C. housing because I needed to transition out of a group home. My normal food budget is $60 a week. Before B.C housing, and before the group home I was living in a basement suite… Read More

Sharon Feener, Prep for the Challenge

Sharon Feener’s Food for the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

As some of you already know, I’ve signed up to do this years Raise the Rates challenge here in BC. But you may be asking what exactly it is… Over 175,000 people in BC rely on welfare, of which over 30,000 are children. Nearly 4% of the population of BC live on welfare, and it has been near this level since 2009, in the fallout from the 2008 recession. The majority of people, 65%, on welfare are people with disabilities. Welfare payments have been frozen since April 2007, over 8 years. They… Read More

Bif Naked and Jenny Kwan to take the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge

Bif Naked and Jenny Kwan with members of Raise the Rates Coalition at press conference at Aboriginal Front Door on Oct, 27th to help promote the 4th Annual Welfare Food Challenge

On Oct. 27, the Raise the Rates Coalition announced their 4th annual Welfare Food Challenge at the Aboriginal Front Door in Vancouver. Singer Bif Naked is taking the challenge for the second time and new Member of Parliament for Vancouver East, Jenny Kwan, is taking it for the first time. Both women say they will spend that week eating only what food they can buy for $21. Read the full news release here or download the PDF. Stay tuned for updates and follow us on Facebook for all the latest news!