Today is the last day of the Welfare Food Challenge. It has been an interesting week navigating the challenges of living on $18 for food for the week. I did my best to eat as well as I could, but for most of the week I have felt tired and cranky.
I have a scientific mind, so I wanted to quantify my experiences in this challenge, and I have been inputting my meals into eaTracker.ca so I could keep track of my calorie and nutrient intake over the week.
I simply did not meet the requirements for ANY nutrients. Some key things stand out…
- Energy – I’m WAY below the caloric intake I need to maintain a healthy weight, about half what I need. If I kept this up for a longer period of time I’d drop too many pounds. In fact, I’ve lost 6 pounds since last Friday. (Some of that is from illness, I’ve had a cold through this whole challenge, and some must be water weight). I’m also sluggish and too tired to do the fun physical activities I normally would.
- Iron – also needed for energy, my iron intake was on average 58% of what I need despite the high content in black beans. At least my body will have absorbed more to compensate for the decreased intake.
- Calcium – my intake was way too low at 35%. I just couldn’t afford to buy dairy, the easiest source, or the high calcium alternatives that a vegan would eat. Someone who had to live on this grocery amount for a long period would have very poor bone health.
- Vitamin C – I tried, especially because I’ve been sick since last Friday, but only averaged at 75%. My immune function has been impaired and I can’t shake my cold.
- Sodium – reducing sodium is a goal for most north Americans… but too little and you don’t retain enough water. I’ve been drinking on average 10 cups of water a day, and yet dehydration is kicking in, with cracked lips and dizziness, and water weight loss.
I could go on, but I think you see the point: it is just NOT possible to eat a healthy diet on $18 a week, the current amount people on welfare have to spend on food. This leads to health deterioration and exhaustion. Trying to find employment or participate in social activities would be terribly challenging.
Please visit welfarefoodchallenge.org to learn about Raise the Rates, the Welfare Food Challenge.
Please consider signing the petition to help raise the Welfare rates in BC to a liveable amount!
-Laura Gair, Community Food Programmer