Learning to live on three dollars a day

Cranbrook woman takes on Welfare Food Challenge to raise awareness for income assistance rates

Imagine having a grocery budget of only $21 per week.

That’s $3 a day.

A local Cranbrook woman recently completed the Welfare Food Challenge, a public awareness campaign that is looking to increase income assistance rates for low income people and families.

Darcy Victor spent the week of Oct. 16-22 living out the food challenge, budgeting only $21 over seven days for her grocery budget.

Needless to say, there were obvious challenges that come with such a tight budget, Victor said.

“Basically once the rent and the bills and everything are paid for someone, an able bodied person living on income assistance, that is all that is left per week to purchase food,” said Victor.

The main challenge is trying to stretch the grocery budget to cover the week with healthy meal options, which was extremely difficult, added Victor.

“The first challenge is looking at the prices in the store,” she said. “To actually have to physically sit there and look at the prices—and finding small quantities of food—was challenging. You can’t just buy a cup or two of rice at Safeway or Superstore.”

As part of the challenge, she wasn’t allowed to use any resources from the Food Bank, but she managed to purchase food in small quantities from the Salvation Army.

“I got $8.50 worth of food from there, and included a cup of brown sugar, two cups of oatmeal, four cups of rice, two cups of brown beans and kidney beans,” Victor said.

It wasn’t long until her diet, which was suffering due to the budgetary constraints of the challenge, started to impact her physical and mental well-being.

“Throughout the challenge, the first couple of days, I experienced headaches, my stomach was constantly growling and my mind shifted after the second day to actually focussing on lunch—I didn’t have money for snacks so actually making my lunch till suppertime,” Victor said.

The fifth day was the best because she was able to make a soup that included some vegetables, she said.

It was a challenge that hit pretty close to home for Victor, as she works in the social services field with youth probation and as a low-income family consultant.

“I really could relate,” Victor said. “I only had to do it for a week, but it really put me in a place of understanding when families and people I work with talk to me about how they are thinking about food.

“Where are they going to get that next meal? How are they going to feed their children — that type of thing.”

The campaign, a province wide initiative, is headed by Raise the Rates—a coalition of community groups and organizations concerned with the level of poverty and homelessness in B.C.

There will be a food drive on Monday at the Community Connections building beside the Memorial Arena (the old Bingo Hall) from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Food items dropped off will be donated locally to low-income families.