Belmont Grade 12 students

Belmont students attempt to eat at welfare prices

Trying to eat on $26 a week, as those on social assistance do, is harder than it sounds, says a group of Belmont secondary students.

Trying to eat on $26 a week, as those on social assistance do, is harder than it sounds, says a group of Belmont secondary students who took on the challenge.

“The first two days a lot of us found it easy,” said Chris Moore, who lasted four days. “But after a while, once you run out of food, you start getting hungrier and hungrier.”

“You just have zero energy whatsoever,” said Kaeleigh Gaunt, who made it three days. “Your mood totally goes down and I was starting to get depressed.”

As a part of their social justice course at the school, five students chose to take part in the challenge, organized by Raise the Rates, a coalition of community groups with concerns over poverty.

An able-bodied individual receives $610 per month on social assistance, a rate which has not increased since 2007. Factoring in a bare-bones rent and other essentials, the organization calculates about $26 is left for food per individual, per week.

Organizer Bill Hopwood estimates more than 100 people took part.

“All of them said at the end of the week ‘Thank goodness I only have to do it for a week, I don’t know how people survive on that,’” Hopwood said. “People on welfare are so desperate it’s making it harder to get out of that world.”

Of the first four students who took on the challenge, only one made it through the week, Jaelin Ellis. The fifth student, Kurt Pearce, was in the midst of the challenge at the time of writing.

The students started by combing the grocery store for the cheapest items, and wound up with Heinz Zoodles, a canned pasta. They would eat Zoodles for breakfast, maybe an apple and granola bar at lunch and Zoodles again for dinner.

Teacher Danielle Huculak estimates students got about 500 calories a day. A moderately active teenager is recommend to eat roughly between 2,000 and 2,800 calories a day, depending on gender and weight.

By day three the students had trouble focusing in class and felt weak and ill.

Moore said a hockey practice around day three nearly did him in.

“I wasn’t feeling well before and I got on the ice and fell down and couldn’t really get up for like five minutes,” he said. “I got off the ice. I should have quit that night.”

“I felt like I was going to pass out a few times,” Gaunt said. “I just had to quit because I was too hungry. It’s a hard thing to do.”

Huculak knew the challenge would be difficult and kept a close eye on the students to see how they were doing.

“When I was hearing them talk I said ‘You need to stop. You have permission to stop,’” she said. “The point had been made, so they didn’t need to go the seven days. I think it was a pretty enlightening experience.”

Moore said he lost three pounds during the challenge, Gaunt two pounds and Matthew Pounden, who lasted three days, about four or five pounds.

The experience helped the students realize just how good they have it, with parents who are able to afford regular, balanced meals. They all now believe social assistance does not give enough money for food.

The students plan to write a letter to the government telling of their experience and imploring that social assistance rates be raised.

“It would be a good thing to see the government try and do this and realize that it’s not enough for a person to live off of for a whole week,” Gaunt said. “(It’s) a reality check.”

 

 

Just Posted

Metchosin Mayor John Rann welcomes new council members

Half of Metchosin council are incumbents

What to pack in an emergency-preparedness kit for earthquakes

Several earthquakes of Vancouver Island’s West Coast have people wondering how to be ready

Rotating Canada Post strikes begin in Victoria

Monday’s mail will be delayed one day due to strike

West Shore RCMP seizes Camp Namegans’ U-Haul truck

Lock and gate damaged at Thetis Lake Campground in View Royal

Multiple earthquakes off Vancouver Island recorded around the world

Five earthquakes overnight on Oct. 21 were measured as ‘strong’

B.C. sailor surprised by humpback whale playing under her boat

Jodi Klahm-Kozicki said the experience was ‘magical’ near Denman Island

Ovechkin has 4 points as Caps rough up Canucks 5-2

WATCH: Defending champs pick up impressive win in Vancouver

B.C. government moves to tighten resource industry regulations

New superintendent will oversee engineers, biologists, foresters

Election watchdog seeks digitally savvy specialists to zero in on threats

Move follows troublesome evidence of online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election

More court before Dutch man charged in Amanda Todd case is extradited here

Appeals must be dealt with in Europe, before charges faced in B.C.

Crown says man guilty of B.C. girl’s 1978 murder based on alleged confession

Jury hears details of girl’s 1978 murder while Crown says man should be convicted of girl’s murder based on alleged confession.

BCHL alumni has NHL jersey retired by Anaheim Ducks

Paul Kariya played with the Penticton Vees from 1990-1992

Most Read