This assignment involves living on a food budget for one week that is similar to that of a social assistance recipient in Ontario and writing a report based on your experience. The assignment design is based on the Welfare Food Challenge, created by Raise the Rates, a coalition of community groups and organizations concerned with the level of poverty and homelessness in British Columbia. Raise the Rates focuses on those in the worst poverty—people living on welfare—and advocates for increased welfare rates. A similar Canadian project, the Do the Math Challenge, was organized by the Put Food in the Budget campaign. Elaine Power, whose Globe & Mail article you will read in Week 5, wrote a series of blog posts about participating in the Do the Math Challenge (which she called the “Food Bank Diet Challenge;” note that her diary entries are in reverse chronological order). Power’s Food Bank Diet Challenge was part of a campaign organized by the Kingston Community Roundtable on Poverty Reduction to show the impossibility of eating healthfully on a social assistance budget. Please explore the linked websites above to get some background for this assignment.
Your assessment will be based on the following six components which must be included in your final submission:
- Calculate your weekly food budget. First determine what the average Ontario monthly social assistance payment is for a single person. 14% of this would be the monthly amount that a person could allot for food. Divide this by four and that is your weekly food budget. Show your calculation and where you got your numbers from. An example of how this is done can be found here. (Note: this example is based on a previous year/province so your figure will not be the same.)
- Create a budget and food plan for the week. Look at weekly flyers (the Flipp app is useful for this, to compare food prices between stores). Where do you plan to shop? What do you plan to eat? You can get some ideas for how to prepare for this challenge in the blog posts here and here.
- Research food security resources near your home. Where is the closest food bank to you? What is the process for enrolling? Where are closest Out of the Cold programs or other free-meal programs? (Calling 211 can help you find this information.)
- Create a daily food journal. At the end of each day, detail what you ate, where you ate, and where you obtained your food from. Receipts for food purchased should be included.
- Create a daily reflection journal. At the end of each day, reflect on how you felt about living on a food budget. What was challenging? What made it easier? How did you feel physically and mentally? How did it impact your social or family life? Did you need to deviate from your plan or budget? Where did you shop? Did anyone give you food? How did your eating or shopping style for this week differ from your normal eating style? Were there any barriers to reaching stores with the lowest-priced foods?
- Conclusions. At the end of the week, compare your experience to that of at least two participants on the Welfare Food Challenge site (either in terms of your preparation or daily planning/eating). Think about some solutions you may have tried if you remained food insecure for the long term. Based on your experience, how do you think that the province can increase food security for people on social assistance?
You are free to be creative about what you include above and beyond these six elements in your assignment. The media (or multimedia) you choose to use to create this project is up to you. Examples may include: a written report, photographs, video, social media (e.g., blogs, vlogs, Instagram, Facebook). Evidence of effort in attempting this challenge is necessary.
 Participating in this challenge may be triggering for those who have lived experience with poverty or disordered eating. Please consider this when thinking about whether to choose this assignment and feel free to talk to the instructor if you have concerns.