Welfare Food Challenge – Day 7

Today was the last day of the Welfare Food Challenge. I’m excited for it to be over (and even have a bag of chips teed up for midnight), but saddened at the same time. For many people in this province, the challenge continues – $3/day for food is their reality.

It’s been hard to be honest about how I’ve felt this week. I know that a lot of people on income assistance have been following the blogs and social media posts from the challengers, and I don’t want to offend anyone or come across ungrateful. At the same time I think it’s important to talk about the stomach aches, hunger pangs, lack of focus, and excessive salivating that happens whenever I see, smell, or think about food (that was unexpected). We need to have an honest conversation about food insecurity in this province and what it feels like – that is the whole point of doing this challenge. Yes it’s temporary. Yes I’m in this by choice, but my experience is real nonetheless.

I’ve been thinking about the long term consequences of eating this way. For starters, it’s stressful. At the beginning of the challenge, I wasn’t sure if my food would last the week so I was eating a bit less just to be safe. Even when I realized that I would make it without running out, I still worried about it. All the time. In fact, I seemed to think about food all the time. I was also scared I would have a moment of weakness and overeat, putting myself in jeopardy of running out later in the week. Imagine what that would feel like week after week, month after month.

I’m also tired of eating the same thing meal after meal. After just one week this may seem petty, but variety is what makes food enjoyable. It also increases the chances of a nutritionally adequate diet. $21 a week does not give one an opportunity to have a varied diet, and meeting nutritional needs is not possible. Do people on welfare not deserve to enjoy their food or have adequate nutrition? Why have we decided this is acceptable?

The week is over and the Welfare Food Challenge has stopped for those who chose to partake, but the fight for food security in this province needs to continue.

How to Support the Welfare Food Challenge

  • Retweet, like, comment on, and share posts on social media with the hashtag #WelfareFoodChallenge
  • Sign the petition to ask Premier Christy Clark to raise the welfare rates
  • Get involved with Raise the Rates and become an advocate for improving food security in BC

Do you think $21 a week is enough for food? Do you think that welfare rates in BC should be raised? Let me know in the comments section below. Don’t forget to share and like this post!

Welfare Food Challenge – Half Way There

I’m more than half way through the week and counting down the days until the challenge is over. I have more food left than I thought I would at this stage and I’m definitely not at risk of running out. This is good news because I’ll be able to eat a bit more over the next 3 days. And while I admit it feels good to know that I figured out how to make the $21 dollars work, this in no way proves that $21 is a sufficient amount of money for food each week. Far from it.

There are a lot of factors that have contributed to my “success” so far, and my temporary situation is by no means an accurate representation of what it looks like to live on income assistance. Before taking this challenge, I had the opportunity to price shop, meal plan, and use skills learned from my dietetics studies to optimize my purchases. While you don’t need a degree in dietetics to be a smart shopper or good cook, my nutrition background has definitely been an advantage. I also have a fully stocked kitchen – there isn’t much in the way of cooking equipment that I don’t have. Sure, the meals I have prepared this week are simple to make, and don’t require much more than a stove-top (or hot plate), I can’t help but think of people who don’t have a full-stocked kitchen. Or those who don’t have a kitchen at all. Without a functioning kitchen to safely store and prepare food, options become very, very limited.

In spite of these advantages, I’m still coming up short. I’ve been tracking my intake throughout the week, and plan on providing a nutritional breakdown at the end of the challenge. So far I am getting 50-70 percent of what I need energy wise, and there are some key nutrients that are lacking. Over the long term this would lead to nutrient deficiencies, malnutrition, and poor health. I’m lucky to be doing this temporarily. I also have limited choice in terms of what I can eat, and there are absolutely no indulgences. I am avoiding exercise this week, as I don’t have enough energy to go for a run or hit the gym. There is a dull headache that won’t go away, I’m having a hard time focusing, and am getting really irritable.

Income assistance is supposed to be temporary. People don’t intend to end up on welfare and the government doesn’t want to be paying more than it needs to – I get that. But I don’t see how $610 a month, not enough for adequate food and housing, is helpful. Doesn’t this just add barriers and make it harder for people to get back on their feet?


How to Support the Welfare Food Challenge

  • Retweet, like, comment on, and share posts on social media with the hashtag #WelfareFoodChallenge
  • Sign the petition to ask Premier Christy Clark to raise the welfare rates
  • Get involved with Raise the Rates and become an advocate for improving food security in BC

Do you think $21 a week is enough for food? Do you think that welfare rates in BC should be raised? Let me know in the comments section below. Don’t forget to share and like this post!

Status

Welfare Food Challenge – Day 2

My head is pounding! I think it’s from no caffeine for 2 days. Hoping this will be gone tomorrow. I’ve been drinking plain hot water instead – I find it comforting actually. I’m not in the mood for much writing today, but I’ll let you know what I ate.

Breakfast
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons peanut butter

Lunch
3 slices of toast with peanut butter
1 large carrot

Dinner
2 cups bean and corn mix (black beans, navy beans, onion, chili powder)

Evening Snack
1/3 cup yogurt

So far, it looks like I’m on track for the week in terms of my plan. I have enough of the beans and corn for 4 more meals, enough to make the pasta dish from yesterday 3 more times, and lentils and barley that I’m saving for the end of the week. Bread, peanut butter, oats, carrots, and yogurt will fill in the gaps.

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It’s Going to be a Long Week

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 stomach aches, and I’m tired. There’s a lot going on.

This morning, I shared my meal plan for the day. Tonight I’d like to leave you with a couple of recipes. They require minimal cooking equipment and are easy to make. If you are fortunate enough to add more ingredients or seasoning to them, go for it. If not, don’t worry – they are still good and wholesome.

Peanut Butter Overnight Oats
Makes 1 Serving

Ingredients
½ cup rolled oats
1 cup water
2 tablespoons peanut butter

Preparation

  1. In a glass Mason jar or bowl, add rolled oats and water. Stir to combine. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. In the morning, stir in peanut butter. If desired, you can heat in the microwave for 45-60 seconds to warm up.

Egg Noodles with Spinach and Tomato Sauceegg noodles with spinach
Makes 2 Servings

Ingredients
3 cups dry broad egg noodles
8 cups water
½ medium onion
½ package frozen spinach
1 can tomato sauce

  1. Put water in a large pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the egg noodles, stir and let water return to a boil. Cook for 5-7 minutes.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, cut the onion into small pieces. Put onion and spinach in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 ½ minutes. Remove from microwave and stir, then cook on high for another minute.
  3. When the egg noodles are finished cooking, remove from heat and drain the water. Put the noodles back in the pot, and add the onion, spinach, and can of tomato sauce. Stir well to combine then serve.

How to Support the Welfare Food Challenge

  • Retweet, like, comment on, and share posts on social media with the hashtag #WelfareFoodChallenge
  • Sign the petition to ask Premier Christy Clark to raise the welfare rates
  • Get involved with Raise the Rates and become an advocate for improving food security in BC

Do you think $21 a week is enough for food? Do you think that welfare rates in BC should be raised? Let me know in the comments section below. Don’t forget to share and like this post!

Welfare Food Challenge – Day 1

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 weekend to see what was on special so that I could do my best to maximize my budget.

What can you get for 21 bucks?

1 loaf of whole wheat bread – $1.67
1 small bag of frozen corn – $1.97
1 small block of frozen spinach – $0.97
2 cans tomato sauce  – $1.70
1 large container vanilla yogurt (on sale) – $1.97
1 package egg noodles – $1.29
8 bulk carrots (on sale) – $0.97
2 small onions – $0.90
1 jar peanut butter (on sale) – $2.83
bulk rolled oats (on sale) – $1.19
bulk millet (on sale) – $0.78
bulk white beans (on sale) – $0.79
bulk black beans (on sale) – $1.14
bulk green lentils (on sale) – $0.82
bulk pot barley (on sale) – $1.54
bulk chili powder (on sale) – $0.21
bulk curry powder (on sale) – $0.16

Total = $20.90

As you can see from the list above, I benefitted hugely from sale pricing.  I’m not sure how I would have managed if I had to buy things at full price.  I could have spent the full 21 dollars had I opted for two plastic bags, but I’m holding on to that extra ten cents on the off chance that I come across a 5 cent candy.  (I can only get one, because there’s tax on candy, which I’m fine with.  I’m NOT fine with 21 dollars a week for food.)

Here’s how I plan on rationing my food for the day:

Breakfast
1/2 cup rolled oats + 2 tablespoons peanut butter

Lunch
Peanut butter sandwich + 1/2 large carrot

Dinner
Egg noodles (1/4 package) with 1/2 an onion, tomato sauce (1/2 can) and frozen spinach (1/4 package)

Dessert or Snack
1/3 cup yogurt

I’ll let you know how it goes.


How to Support the Welfare Food Challenge

  • Retweet, like, comment on, and share posts on social media with the hashtag #WelfareFoodChallenge
  • Sign the petition to ask Premier Christy Clark to raise the welfare rates
  • Get involved with Raise the Rates and become an advocate for improving food security in BC

Twenty One Dollars a Week

21dollarsaweek2“Should I have peanut butter or chicken?” I asked my husband, already knowing my answer.

“I think peanut butter” he said. “It’s more versatile.” Good answer.

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.” I was trying to decide whether or not to spend $4.00 on a few chicken thighs, or $3.00 on a jar of peanut butter. I was having a hard time justifying the extra dollar on chicken, even though I needed some more protein for the week. Peanut butter seemed to make the most sense anyways. I’d be able to have it every day, I like it, and I don’t have to cook it. Straight out of the jar. That will do.

This year, I am participating in the Welfare Food Challenge. For one week starting tomorrow I have $21 to spend on food. For the entire week. No donations or charity. No gleaning from my garden or deep-freeze. Why only $21? That is how much it is estimated that residents in BC who are on income assistance have to spend on food per week.  I can tell you without even completing this challenge that $21 is not enough. You probably know that too.

Income Assistance in BC

  • Over 175, 000 people in BC are on welfare – 30,000 are children
  • 65% of people on welfare have disabilities
  • Welfare rates have been frozen since April 2007
  • A single person receives $610/month on welfare
  • The poverty line in BC is $1,500/month

Nonetheless, I’m keen to do the challenge. Primarily, to raise awareness for this issue, but also to have a deeper understanding of food insecurity. The welfare rates in BC need to be increased, and this challenge is a way to bring the issue to the forefront of media discussions. This week, I’ll be blogging daily about my experience, sharing what I ate, how I’m feeling, etc. As a dietetics student, this is a good opportunity for me to learn firsthand what food insecurity feels like. A little bit of empathy can go a long way.

The Welfare Food Challenge is in its 4th year, and is growing in popularity. Last week musician Bif Naked signed up for the second year and MP Jenny Kwan announced her involvement this year. This is important, because poverty in BC is an important issue that isn’t talked about enough. Hopefully this year, there will be more media coverage that sparks a province wide discussion on raising the welfare rates.

How to Support the Welfare Food Challenge

  • Retweet, like, comment on, and share posts on social media with the hashtag #WelfareFoodChallenge
  • Sign the petition to ask Premier Christy Clark to raise the welfare rates
  • Get involved with Raise the Rates and become an advocate for improving food security in BC

Do you think $21 a week is enough for food? Do you think that welfare rates in BC should be raised? Let me know in the comments section below. Don’t forget to share and like this post!

Happy Father’s Day

I was fortunate to grow up in a house of two cooks. My dad cooked on the ships for the Coastguard, my mom on all the days that dad was away, or wasn’t cooking. In our house, cooking was neither a woman’s nor a man’s job. It was the job of the person that got home first, preferred to do the grilling, or was better at Christmas baking. Both my parents were wonderful cooks, each with their own signature style and specialty, and every day in our house was filled with home cooked meals. Growing up in this environment shaped my love of food, and today cooking certain dishes keeps me connected to my childhood and loved ones.

mel with hornsToday will be the eighth Father’s Day since my dad’s passing. In recent years I’ve started a tradition of cooking a meal that reminds me of him, while CCR blasts in the background. One of the dishes my dad was famous for, both at work and home, was a recipe from an old Betty Crocker book: Lemon Chicken, Hunan Style. There was one change to the recipe that my dad made, and it was strictly followed – lemon horns worn by the chef.

Lemon Chicken, Hunan Style
Makes 6 Servings

Recipe from Betty Crocker’s International Cooking, September 1980

Ingredients
3 whole chicken breasts, about 3 lbs
Vegetable oil for deep frying
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
1 egg
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Honey Lemon Sauce (see recipe below)
Lemon slices for garnish

Preparation

  1. Remove bones and skin from chicken; cut chicken into halves. Heat vegetable oil (1-1 1/2 inches) to 360 degrees. Beat remaining ingredients except Honey Lemon Sauce and lemon slices with hand beater until smooth. Dip chicken pieces one at a time into batter. Fry 2 pieces at a time until golden brown, turning once, about 7 minutes; drain. Repeat with remaining chicken.
  2. Cut chicken crosswise into 1/2 inch slices; arrange in single layer on heated platter. Keep warm. Prepare Honey Lemon Sauce; pour over chicken. Garnish with lemon slices.

lemon chicken

Honey Lemon Sauce

Ingredients
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon catsup
1/2 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

Preparation
Heat 1/2 cup water, the lemon peel, lemon juice, honey, catsup, bouillon (dry), salt and garlic to boiling. Mix cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water; stir into sauce. Cook and stir until thickened, about 30 seconds

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  I hope wherever you are, the coffee is strong, the tunes are loud, and the road is smooth and winding.  xoxo, Mel.

Mexican Chocolate Smoothie

mexican chocolate shakeI love smoothies for breakfast.  They are quick, easy, and can be a good way to sneak some extra greens into your day.  They are, however, not as much fun in the winter.  A cold breakfast on a cold morning just doesn’t do it for me.  Especially when the sun doesn’t show its face until 8am (if at all).  This smoothie is the perfect combination of spicy and sweet.  It has just enough heat to make a cold breakfast on a dark morning a good thing.  Besides, who doesn’t love chocolate for breakfast?

 

Mexican Chocolate Smoothie
Makes 1 Smoothie

Ingredients
1 cup milk of choice
1 medium banana
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon raw cacao or best-quality cocoa (unsweetened)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch cayenne

Preparation

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Do you prefer a hot or cold breakfast this time of year?

Happy New Year and a Make-Ahead Breakfast

Hello and Happy New Year!  It feels kind of funny to say that now, considering it’s already the 16th of January.  Nonetheless, I hope that you had a festive yet restful holiday season.

It’s been quite a while since my last post.  Unfortunately, I had to go radio-silent during exams, and when all was said and done, I just needed to take a break.  This year I will try to have a few yummy recipes in the queue and ready to go for such times.  Speaking of yummy recipes, here is an easy, make ahead breakfast recipe that will help get you out the door on time.  If you are like me, you know that getting up before the sun rises to hit the gym, sneak in a run, or make it to class on time is no fun at all.  I hope this helps.

yogurt parfait

Make Ahead Breakfast Parfaits
Serves 4

Ingredients
500 g (2 cups) plain or vanilla yogurt
2 cups fresh or frozen berries
1 1/3 cup granola

Preparation
  1. Add 125g (1/2 cup) yogurt to each small mason jar* or reusable container.
  2. Add 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries in each jar or container.
  3. Top each parfait with 1/3 cup granola, attach lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

*Note: Please don’t feel the need to run out and buy Mason jars just for this recipe.  Any to-go container that fits all the ingredients will work.   

What do you do to get yourself organized and out the door on time in the mornings?

Fresh Pick Friday – Chard

The sun may be shining here in Vancouver, but the air sure is cold!  Comfort foods have become a mainstay as of late, so I thought I would highlight a hearty green that will make a nutritious addition to your soups and stews.  This week’s Fresh Pick is chard.

Chard

Chard, (also called Swiss chard) is actually a member of the beet family which explains the similarity in the look between beet tops and chard.  It comes in a variety of colours: yellow, pink, red, and purple, and is loaded with nutrients.  One cup of chopped raw chard is a good source of Vitamin C and beta-carotene.

When and Where to Find Chard
Chard is a cool weather green that can be grown in the Lower Mainland year-round.  I had a small batch going in my garden last year, although it performs better in the fall and spring compared to the winter months.  You will definitely be able to find it at the Vancouver Winter Market this time of year, and likely in your local grocery store too.  Look for brightly coloured stems and dark green leaves, avoiding chard that appears wilted or brown.

What to do With Chard
There is so much you can do with chard.  Add it to smoothies, soups, or stews.  Chard tastes delicious sautéed with garlic and chili flakes, and goes wonderfully with brunch dishes like frittatas and hash.  I also like to cut it into thin strips and add it to coleslaws and other salads.  The stems can be quite thick, but don’t throw them away.  They can get added to smoothies with the greens, or diced up fine for soups.

Do you have any favorite chard recipes that you would like to share?  Let me know in the comment section below.