A Vanderhoof woman is one of many across BC taking part is the annual ‘Welfare Challenge’ this week.
Participants are trying to live on just $18 of food for a week, without taking ‘handouts’ from peers or using items already stocked in their pantry.
“An individual on income assistance gets $610 for the month. And that is supposed to cover your rent, transportation, food, everything – and it’s been the same rate since 2007.” said Robyn Turner, a dietician for Northern Health.
Turner says she has been living on mostly canned soup, orzo and peanut butter.
“There is no cheese, there is no milk – if I can afford fresh fruit that’s great, but I’m rationing that; I will have half a banana just to allow it to last till the end.”
After just five days on the challenge, Turner says she knows, and feels, that she has not been getting enough nutrition.
“Hungry and feeling weak, and my brain is not functioning.”
“I know even though I try to make the right choices to sustain myself this week. Very quickly the idea of nutrition was not the focus, it was more about just getting those calories.”
Over the past week she says she’s grown to dislike eating quite a bit. Things are especially hard at lunch in the cafeteria. She also misses coffee – something she can’t afford.
Turner hopes the challenge brings awareness to the issue; that the welfare rates have stayed flat since 2007 despite obvious increases to cost of living.