This week, my family and I are involved in a campaign run by The Stop Community Food Centre (where my husband works) that aims to draw attention to the inadequacy of social assistance rates in Ontario, as well as the abysmal amount (think nothing) left over to buy healthy food.
Along with some well-known Torontonians (activist Naomi Klein and her broadcaster/filmmaker husband Avi Lewis, Medical Officer of Health for Toronto David McKeown, singer Damian Abraham and others) we’re attempting to live for as long as possible on food from one of The Stop’s food bank hampers.
These hampers are meant to last 3 days but many people have no choice but to survive 10 days or more on about $25 worth of food. The Stop is known for having particularly generous and healthy hampers (they consider it a priority) but the food is still mostly heavily processed, packaged stuff—especially this time of year when their large garden is not yet producing.
Considering we usually spend at least $250/week on food for our family (not including eating out)—and don’t generally eat processed stuff like chicken weiners or canned pork and bean with bacon— this is going to be a major challenge.
Of course, we don’t expect that after a week of this we’re going to understand what it’s like to try to live on social assistance—after all, we will go back to our regular diet next week—the hope instead is to raise awareness of the issue and show solidarity with those who survive this way every day.
Here’s DAY ONE:
When my husband returned from basketball practice tonight, he was famished and ate 2 eggs, 1/2 a KitKat bar, a bag of microwave popcorn and a glass of milk—all from our hamper. (I’m thinking of hiding my half of the food.)
This campaign will culminate in a town hall meeting a week today to discuss the experience of the participants and to lay out strategies to put pressure on the government to increase social assistance rates and keep their promise to create a viable, dignified poverty reduction strategy.
Watch here for more about how we fare on the food bank hamper.