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Welfare Food Challenge – An Appetite for Change

The 2nd annual Welfare Food Challenge just ended. It ran from October 16th, (World Food Day) to October 23rd. People from all across BC engage in this challenge, living for a week on only the food they could purchase with $26 dollars. This is the money a single able-bodied person on welfare has for food – every week.  

An Appetite for Change 

Kathy Romses, a public health dietitian who works part time with Vancouver Coastal Health, took the challenge. Part of her role includes supporting the vulnerable people living in the Evergreen Community Health Centre area.  

In signing-up for the Challenge, Kathy wanted to help raise awareness of the low rates of financial assistance we provide to people living on welfare. The amount of $26 on food for the week, is estimated to represents what people may have left after they spend their $610 monthly income assistance on other necessities. 

"I wanted to take the Challenge, as I realize that it is possible for any one of us to need financial assistance, if we face a number of challenges, e.g. marriage breakdown, health issues, job loss, etc. For many participants, the initial grocery shopping trip provoked feelings of panic and anxiety when they quickly realized how few foods would fit into their $26 budget," Kathy shared.

Going hungry & other issues

Reading through the Welfare Food Challenge blog, it is obvious that the limited funds created anxiety, stress, tedium, social isolation, inability to focus and low energy. As well, there are stories of creativity, huge amounts of reflection, a range of emotions including deep frustration at the system and compassion for those that live on welfare.





Other side effects included

  • Social isolation - Meals with family and friends or meetings at the coffee shop are not an option. Trying to guard limited food doesn’t help build or maintain relationships with friends and family.
  • Emotional changes – Irritability, inability to concentrate and depressed moods were common emotions.
  • Loss of the ability to make food choices based on your values – when making a choice between hunger or respecting values around food, e.g. nutritious, organic, fair trade, fair prices for farmers, etc., personal values often lost out.

Population Health

Poverty is one of the biggest social determinants of health. Watch this Population Health video. You may be surprised how quickly people can fall into poverty with a series of unfortunate events.

Given that almost one in 12 people in BC are food insecure, Kathy encourages health professionals to ask clients: “Do you ever worry about having enough food to feed yourself or your family?” before offering suggestions to improve their health.

Take Action

If you have an appetite for change, visit www.welfarefoodchallenge.org for ideas, to learn more and to “Take Action”. You can also read participants’ stories on the Welfare Food Challenge blog.

Leave a comment below. We would love to hear your response.