Reflecting on the 2016 Welfare Food Challenge

Last year, I participated in the Welfare Food Challenge, in which participants were allowed to spend $18 for an entire weeks’ worth of food. Raise the Rates, an organization devoted to improving the state of homelessness and extreme poverty in BC, have hosted the event since 2011. The challenge made it clear that participants weren’t allowed to use any food banks, charities, pre-brought food, home-grown food, or free food from friends, family or the community.

After shuffling through the Buy-Low Foods grocery aisles, I left with a decent amount of food spending $16.89. Surviving off of bran cereal, chocolate milk, linguine pasta, and pasta sauce was harder than it seemed. During the week, all I could think about was what I was going to eat next. After the fifth bowl of cereal in a row, the passion I once held for tasty food had turned stale.

During the 5th Welfare Food Challenge, I bought (clockwise) two cans of pasta sauce, a 4-litre jug of chocolate milk, all-bran cereal flakes, two packages of linguine pasta, and two corn on the cob (not pictured).

Before I could reach the three day hump, I allowed my hunger to take the drivers seat. On the second day of the challenge, I cracked. I went to a friends house for dinner and jumped at the offer for a couple slices of pizza. Day after day, the struggle continued. By the end of the week, I had cracked two more times. I gave into temptation simply because I was told certain things were off-limits.


Feeling defeated from the bland and tasteless week, I vowed that I would complete the challenge fairly the next year…

…and here I am! From November 1–7, I will be participating in the 6th Annual Welfare Food Challenge, alongside hundreds of fellow Vancouverites. Find out more about the yearly challenge below.

Looking back, I regret the self-control that I had lacked. This time around, I will do my best to stick to the challenge. While the Welfare Food Challenge is only a short-lived experiment for most, it’s a grim reality for BC residents on welfare.