Today marks the start of Winnipeg Harvest’s Poverty Pledge campaign. This campaign helps Harvest to raise awareness of food security issues. It also aims to help participants to develop greater empathy with the many in our city who struggle to provide themselves with the most basic necessities of life.
The process is quite simple. During the five days of the Poverty Pledge, I have $3.96 to feed myself. $3.96 is the amount a single person living on employment and income assistance (EIA) as their living allowance(after rent is covered). This works out to slightly less than $20.00 for the five days. I don’t need to purchase fresh soap, detergent, etc. If I do run out however, the money for it must come out of this $20.00. I am allowed one invitation out during the course of the five days. I am not allowed to accept any other donations of food or beverages during that time.
Poverty Pledge Shopping:
I worked for fourteen years in a grocery store, and I’ve always been quite attuned to the price of food. As well, as a single, I know the options are a little more limited when one is on your own. I’m aware that food prices have been increasing quite dramatically over the last couple of years. Yet, when I went shopping with this limited budget, I was struck by how much prices have gone up.
I did my first bit of shopping to day and I spent $9.05 of the $20.00 that I am allowed. The pictures below show what that purchased.
One thing you might notice in the pictures is that none of the products are name brand. I purchased the beans, etc. from Giant Tiger. I had thought I might do my whole shopping there, but while I picked up a few items, there seemed to more higher priced national brands than I remember from previous trips. Also, even though it was only Monday, many of the bargains were out of stock. The closing of the bargain shop on Portage Avenue also has taken away one lower priced option.
My lunch for the day, was two boiled eggs, some boiled pasta and the can of corn. This I think is the biggest challenge in the Poverty Pledge. The eating is monotonous. For five days, that not a huge issue, but week after week and month after month it is. Fat gives food it’s flavour, and it’s hard to find that on a limited budget. It’s no wonder people so readily turn to junk food.
For supper I had the pinto beans, and a couple of more boiled eggs. This seems like quite a bit to eat for one day, and highlights one of the challenges when you don’t have much to live on. I didn’t do my shopping first thing Monday, so I was quite hungry by the time I got around to eating anything. I’ll see if I pay for this later on in the week.
So far, bland has been the description of my meals. I’m hoping the apple and ginger I purchased will add a little flavour along the way. I still have $4.20 left. I’m sure I will go through that before the end of the day Friday.
Finally, I think I’ve done a fairly good job of stretching my food dollar. However, it’s already taken me trips to three different stores to accomplish this. This is another problem facing people who are living on EIA. It’s hard to get the best buys because they are so spread out.
The Week Ahead
The Poverty Pledge rules state that you are allowed to accept one meal over the course of the five days. For many people such an opportunity might not come up. For me, my job is going to provide that as Thursday is a lunch meeting with fellow clergy members. I plan to write a little more about social dislocation later in the week.