Cathy Wang on the Welfare Food Challenge

Cathy Wang on the Welfare Food Challenge:

2nd Annual Welfare Food Challenge

The Welfare Food Challenge will start on Wednesday, October 16, World Food Day. We are inviting British Columbians to eat only what they can purchase based on what welfare recipients receive for one week (October 16 to October 22). Welfare Food Challenge participants will be expected to live on only the food they can purchase with $26 dollars. Raise the Rates is inviting you to participate in the 2nd Annual Welfare Food Challenge. Starting on October 16, World Food Day, we are inviting British Columbians to eat only what they can purchase… Read More

The Welfare Food Challenge will start on Wednesday, October 16, World Food Day.

We are inviting British Columbians to eat only what they can purchase based on what welfare recipients receive for one week (October 16 to October 22). Welfare Food Challenge participants will be expected to live on only the food they can purchase with $26 dollars. Raise the Rates is inviting you to participate in the 2nd Annual Welfare Food Challenge. Starting on October 16, World Food Day, we are inviting British Columbians to eat only what they can purchase based on what welfare recipients receive for one week. The event is to… Read More

Jenna Drabble, Day 7,

It is the last day of the challenge and a few things have been on my mind today. First of all, I am relieved for it to be over and glad that tomorrow I will be able to eat more interesting and varied foods (going to take some time away from beans and rice probably). I am looking forward to enjoying my meals, instead of feeling bored or stressed out by the thought of cooking. I have a few meetings and other commitments this week so I’ll be out of the house… Read More

Kylie Pawluk and family, Day 7

We just ended our last day of the welfare food challenge. It was a busy stressful week, my daughter and I both got colds and I have been busy with work on top of trying to organize our food each day. The last few days were pretty un eventful, we have basically eating along my meal plan, with the exception of our one family dinner we attended… Other wise we ate the food bought for the challenge, and there’s not much left, an apple, bit of rice and some carrots. My conclusion… Read More

Kathy Romses, Day 7

On the last meal of the Challenge, I chose to opt out and join colleagues at a restaurant. I shared my experiences, enjoyed my colleague’s company, savoured delicious, healthy dishes and counted my many blessings. There were many lessons learned along the way including the social isolation that results from living on a very limited income. Now it is time for me to start taking the necessary steps to make changes to end poverty in BC. The October 23 issue of the North Shore Outlook included an article, “North Shore Dietitian Battles… Read More

Sarah Nattrass, Day 6

It’s day 6 of the challenge and so far I’ve gained some interesting insights. First, I have realized how often I eat simply for pleasure. How often I pick up that latte or treat just because I can, but not because I actually need it or am that hungry. On that note, I’ve found that I’m now eating when I’m actually really hungry not just out of boredom, which is often the case (especially when I’m home working on homework and want any excuse to get up from writing!). I have also… Read More

Melissa Baker RD(t), Day 6

Tomorrow is the last day of the challenge. I have run out of oatmeal and I can’t eat another brown banana no matter how much peanut butter I put on it. I’ll have to improvise for breakfast tomorrow. Maybe some sort of baked barley banana custard? I considered throwing the rest of my cooked barley out, I am so sick of it! But wasting food on this budget makes my stomach churn. The weekend was definitely the most challenging. Having a social life and being on welfare do not mix, which is… Read More

Sarah Carten, Day 6

Most people this week have asked me this week how hungry I am.  That question doesn’t get at the heart of the health impact of living on such limited funds.  This issue isn’t just about hunger. Living in constant worry about food would likely impact my health far more than hunger itself. As a dietitian, I could also analyse the health impact of my food choices (negligible in calcium and vitamin D; no omega-3’s; excess sodium; etc). But I also think that the stress of worrying that my poor quality diet isn’t… Read More

Kathy Romses, Day 6

I joined a few other participants from the Welfare Food Challenge at the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House for lunch. We shared food and stories of our experiences of living on $26.   My husband and I walked to the grocery store tonight to spend my last $1. I was tempted to splurge and try to find a chocolate bar for $1 since I haven’t had any added sugar this week and I am craving something sweet. I decided on 2 bananas and a local apple. It’s a good thing my husband had… Read More

Margaret Marquardt, Day 6

This is my second reflection on being on the Welfare Challenge of living on $26.00 for the week between (October 14-October 23. This is part of the work of Raise the Rates for those on Social Assistance in BC. Please see the link below in how you or your community could respond. Taking the Challenge meant that we could not use any food we had at home or take charity. It has meant only living on the $26.00 As I wrote in my first reflection, my $26.00 bought me small amounts… Read More

Sarah Nattrass, Day 6

It’s day 6 of the challenge and so far I’ve gained some interesting insights. First, I have realized how often I eat simply for pleasure. How often I pick up that latte or treat just because I can, but not because I actually need it or am that hungry. On that note, I’ve found that I’m now eating when I’m actually really hungry not just out of boredom, which is often the case (especially when I’m home working on homework and want any excuse to get up from writing!). I have also… Read More

Kathy Romses, Day 5

My daughter and her friend came over last night. He is 7’3” and weighs 320 pounds. I’m sure he would have run out of food after a couple of days. The welfare rate doesn’t change if you are a large person, have celiac disease or many other health issues that affect your ability to buy the food you need to be a healthy and productive citizen. I had some frozen samosas, homemade granola, and pulled pork to give my daughter to take with her to University. People living on welfare would not… Read More

Sarah Carten, Day 5

So I was back at the grocery store again today, aiming to spend my last $3.19.  It’s disconcerting to have such a firm cut-off point for cash.  Craving nothing in particular for a mere $3, I decided to first comb the aisles to get a sense of what was available at that price point.  As I wandered the store, I found many foods both healthy and not healthy for $3.19, but for the most part nothing enticed. I decided on fresh produce and picked out a zucchini that I weighed to find… Read More

Maddi Parent, Day 5

Well, I’m proud to say I made it a whole 4 days on the welfare challenge without succumbing to temptation. But day 5 was another story. Today I caved decided to spend last remaining $1.70 of my $26 dollars on a small treat for myself. Based on the common theme in these blog posts, you can probably guess what it was. Yes. A delicious, steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee. Earlier today, I met up with my UBC group members at a local café and simply couldn’t stand the sight of them… Read More

Seth Klein on the Welfare Food Challenge

Take Action

Here are ideas for things you can do to encourage politicians to act to raise welfare and tackle poverty in BC. Sign the petition Please sign the petition and encourage your friends, family and colleagues also to sign it. It only takes a few seconds. Write to Provincial Politicians Write to the Premier, Christy Clark, and Leader of the Opposition, Adrian Dix, or your provincial MLA. Find their contact information here: Raise the Rates sent these letters to Christy Clark and Adrian Dix, they may be of use for ideas. Write… Read More

Marjorie MacDonald, Days 3 and 4

I did not get the opportunity to blog this weekend because I have been sick. The only good thing about that was that I wasn’t hungry, which made it a bit easier to cope. On Friday, however (day 3), I thought a lot about how challenging it is to eat a healthy diet on such a low income. Although I have been able to include some fruits and vegetables, but the most nutritious foods seem to be out of my price range. There is no way to eat “organic” and if you… Read More

Melaine and Jawad, Day 4

Oh the Compromise I think our first two blogs gave you an idea of the compromise that occurred between Jawad and I, but as we sat down to our processed pasta lunch today, it really hit me just how much we are compromising. Having to eat on such a limited budget means that I am compromising my values, my knowledge and even my identity (that’s right my identity, look up food and identity and you’ll get what I mean). Case and point is the awful pasta sauce we had for lunch. I… Read More

Kylie Pawluk and Family, Day 4

So day 4 was a Saturday, we all got up and again, had our oatmeal (which I’m getting rather sick of and my husband has complained about since day 2..). The diet is very repetitive, the only real way to make it work is making large batches of things to eat on for days like soup and chilly. I headed off to work unprepared, grabbing an apple and my water bottle as I left. Sadly for me I was starving before noon. Back at home everyone else ate the rest of the chicken soup… Read More

Kathy Romses, Day 4

Some of this is for day 3 because I wrote my blog in the morning yesterday so that I could spend some time with my daughter and husband. I picked up my daughter from the ferry on Friday afternoon. She has a friend arriving from Prince George in the evening and I would like to meet him. Normally I would invite them over for a meal but I don’t have enough food to share so I suggested they drop by for their choice of cold or hot water. She laughed and said… Read More

Jenna Drabble, Day 4

I must start with a reluctant admission: I cheated (twice). I was really intent on playing by the rules but yesterday, after walking for hours and coming home exhausted and chilled, I decided to roast some potatoes in the oven (about as close as I’m getting to comfort food). I realized that this would be difficult without a dash of olive oil, so that was my first cheat. Let me tell you, those potatoes were delicious. I basically shoved them all into my mouth at the same time. It was something about… Read More

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… Read More

Margaret Marquardt, Day 3

My food supply is lentils, rice, onions, bread, margarine, cottage cheese, a can of pineapple and milk. Each of us took the challenge to spend only $26.00 for food for the week. I did put money aside for coffee that I brew at home, and I am really glad I did. (I usually have a couple of cups a day). I know that I would have had a headache all week if I didn’t. Also, along with a two pieces of toast a day, I have the coffee to look forward to…. Read More

Sarah Carten, Day 3

After eggs and rice for breakfast, I picked up three new ingredients to help balance out my meal plan for the remaining 5 days.  A box of Garam masala for flavour ($1.50), a bag of carrots as my versatile veggie ($1.89), and peanut butter ($3.89).  I chose the cheapest peanut butter I could find, which of course meant sugar and trans fats were added.  This was yet another reminder of how often someone living on low income would have to compromise the nutritional quality of the food they eat. I’ve thought a… Read More

Jawad Qureshy, Day 3

Breakfastless in Burnaby So I was running a bit behind in the morning and decided to skip the oatmeal preparation for breakfast. Instead of a hot breakfast, I took with me 5 granola bars – thinking I could stagger them over the course of my day until either I gave out or they. I didn’t think at the time of course, that this would be too much of a problem. I work odd hours and will often skip a mid-afternoon lunch. As I was going to get off work at 3pm anyway… Read More

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,… Read More

Maddi Parent, Day 2

To describe my 2nd day on the Welfare Food Challenge, the one word I would have to use is…frustrating. As a student I never truly realized how dependent I am on little treats to keep me going throughout my study day. As I sat in the library studying for a midterm this evening, about every 20 minutes a little floating image of a cookie or a coffee drink would  pop up into my head I would have a moment of intense excitement just before having the crushing realization that my sweet tooth… Read More

Marjorie MacDonald, Day 2

Keen to stay on track today, I started the day with a shopping trip – choosing the grocery store that I know is generally cheaper (but the vegetables are not as nice) than the others. I bought some mixed beans and oxo cubes to make soup, a small bag of black beans, a small bag of brown rice, a bag of mottled applies on the discount shelf, two onions, a bunch of spinach, a small bag of skim milk powder, a loaf of whole wheat bread (the cheap kind), a dozen eggs… Read More

Sarah Carten, Day 2

After seeing yesterday that my lentils and rice will likely get me through most of my meals this week, I decided to spend some of my remaining money on cheap eggs so that I could have some variety once a day.  I also decided to buy something with colour. Given we eat with our eyes, I felt that my meals needed something more appealing than their uniform browny-yellow colour combination.  I looked at many green vegetables in the store, but the uncertainty of how much they weighed and what the final cost… Read More

Kylie Pawluk, Day 2

So last night we roasted our chicken for dinner, afterwards I took all the extra meat off the bones, and put the carcass back in the crock pot with water and the trimmings from the veggies I roasted and let it cook over night. This stock is high in minerals and tastes awesome! I used most of the meat, an onion, a few carrots, a potato and some of the whole wheat noodles and made an awesome chicken noodle soup out of the chicken broth. So how am I feeling on day… Read More

Kathy Romes, Day 3

This video made me realize how close any one of us can be to hunger.  Here’s another story in the North Shore Outlook, North Shore’s Invisible Homeless Crisis of how a health issue resulted in an older couple becoming homeless. These stories brought me back to a time when I was a single parent with 3 children. I was at UBC working on my masters to become a dietitian. My Mom got cancer during this time and I spent as much time as possible with her trying to help care… Read More

Kathy Romses, Day 2

I needed food to have the energy to think clearly today at work so most of my lunch was eaten by 11 am. At 3 pm I had a couple of pieces of toast with margarine because I was having trouble focusing again. This wasn’t in my meal plan so I am only going to get hungrier as the week progresses. The positive part of the day was that I learned how to make tortillas. I mixed 1 cup flour, ¼ tsp salt, ½ tsp baking powder, 1 ½ tsp margarine and… Read More

Jenna Drabble, Day 2

I have finished the second day of the challenge, and have already experienced, to some degree, many of the things that I anticipated: anxiety, frustration, boredom and social isolation. In a sense this sounds a bit ridiculous given the short amount of time that has passed but it reflects the important role that food has in our lives; its absence is immediately noticeable and affects us in a dramatic way. Grocery shopping was a stressful experience. Beyond the constant stopping in the store to tally the contents in my basket and the… Read More

Fraser breaks down the welfare rates

Melaine and Jawad Day 2

Melaine and Jawad2

Marjorie MacDonald, Day 1

Because I had forgotten to sign up for the challenge in advance I did not do any real preparation. This was a huge mistake. I had not looked to see whether there were any guidelines for participants before starting. Thus, I struggled through the first day trying to figure out what I was allowed to do. I had a lot of questions like: Could I eat the food I already had in the house? I thought – probably not, but what else was I going to do since I was not prepared?… Read More

Chris Buchner, Day 1

When contemplating what food I would buy for the Welfare Food Challenge, I wasn’t that worried.  I’ve been really poor at various times in my life and I thought that one survival skill I’d developed through these periods, was how to survive on very little money. On Tuesday evening, I went shopping with my 26$.  There are lots of inexpensive stores in my neighbourhood, and so I headed to the Dollar Store and the green grocers that line south Fraser Street.  And I made some rookie mistakes.  The first mistake I made… Read More

Sarah Carten, Day 1

I have been reflecting about the many competing priorities that someone would face while trying to make food choices on so little money.  Taste, health, variety, seasonality, locality, and production method are a few priorities that I have disregarded in order to satisfy my goal of minimizing hunger this week.  Within my $26, an additional need is to buy only gluten-free foods, as I’m Celiac.  The cost of gluten free flour, breads, pastas, snack foods, and most grains except rice is out of reach of anyone living on income assistance and certainly… Read More

Kylie Pawluk & Family, Day 1

I truly believe knowledge is power! 4 years ago, my boyfriend and I where having trouble finding full time work. We struggled to pay bills, and I though I had to live on off brand mac and cheese, and instant noodles, the only vegetable I bought was broccoli. I know better now. We now have two children, and funny, spend less on food then ever, and eat pretty darn well! I planned my meals for this week carefully, trying to focus on protein and veggies. Normally my family eats loads of fruit,… Read More

Madelaine Parent: Day 1

After a long, mentally exhausting afternoon of grocery store combing with nothing but $26 dollars in my pocket, I began the Welfare Food Challenge at 5:30 this evening. My shopping managed to provide me with several large bags (mostly yellow…Paul’s No Frills anyone?) filled with the following foods: 750 mL milk 1 carton large, white eggs 1 loaf whole wheat bread 1 bag dried kidney beans 1 bag red lentils 1 bag parboiled rice 1 large can diced tomatoes 1 bag frozen peas 3 tomatoes 1 bunch broccoli 4 large carrots 5 apples… Read More

Kathy Romses, Day 1

A lot of time, energy, knowledge and skills were devoted to developing a grocery list and meal plan that may come close to meeting my nutrient needs and my desire for delicious, sustainable food. It was disappointing to have to buy New Zealand apples during the peak season for local products but my need for enough food outweighed my desire for sustainable food. My meal plan includes making my own yogurt, tortillas, falafels and peanut butter using appliances I am sure that most people living on welfare do not own. This was… Read More

Roni, Day I

I would like to share to everyone what I was able to buy with $26.00.  I have $.40 cents left for me. I baked 3 of my 12 apples to have them as my spread for my breakfast. Beans and Veg plus a chicken for soup for the week. I have Lentils, Quinoa, a can of sardines, 4 pcs of chicken left, Pasta, I was able to buy a $2.34 can of coffee. I have carefully planned my meals to be able to eat healthy for the week. So far so good.

Sarah Nattrass, Day 1

Today is Day 1 of the challenge, which meant that I started my day with my grocery shopping for the week. I headed to No Frills and really had no idea what I was going to end up with, both in terms of type and quantity of food. In thinking about it now, I don’t know if I’ve ever shopped looking so closely at prices. I typically purchase food based first on nutrition, and therefore it was a big change for me to simply be focusing my eyes on the pricetags with… Read More

Melaine and Jawad Day 1

Melaine and Jawad1


As well as the blogs that are here you can follow people on the Welfare Food Challenge on their website, facebook, tumbler twitter, etc. Seth: Sam: @sjm89 Jenna: Melissa: @UpBeetRD, and Erica: Marjorie: Wes: Kathy: @RD_KLR Denise: Colleen: and @every_table

Media Coverage

Before Startof the Challenge Co-op radio, Union Made, CKKQ The Q FM 100.3 Victoria The Wolf 97 FM CJCI, Prince George CITR FM 101.9, UBC radio AM 1150 Kelowna CHNL radio in Kamloops Courier Since the Launch Good Life Vancouver: Vancouver Sun, print: Vancouver Sun, video: The Wolf 840 AM, 100 Mile

Marjorie, Day 0: Thinking About The Welfare Food Challenge

Last year about this time, I was at a research team meeting in Richmond that included several academic researchers from various BC universities and representatives from each of the six health authorities. We were discussing the future of our Core Public Health Functions Research Initiative and how we were going to ‘re-vision and re-brand’ it. We also talked about the need to develop a new five year research agenda to build on the cross cutting themes of our current research agenda. One of those themes is “health equity.” Over our discussions, we… Read More