Thursday, 20 October 2016

Past the half way

Before heading to work yesterday I spent another dose of time in the kitchen, the space of ultimate privilege in a challenge like this: oven, stove, fridge, hand blender to puree the soup, utensils galore, and more. The last things I made up were some biscuits (because I didn't have enough flour to make bread), and a coleslaw made with cabbage, carrot, and raisins dressed with the last spoon of yogurt, salt, pepper and sprinkle of sugar. (Good, but better after it had a day to sit in the fridge)


Honestly, I wanted to cheat and use a spoonful of mayo to make it nice and creamy but glad I didn't as it was fine without, and the guilt of the cheat would have gotten to me after spending so much time reflecting on all the lack of options for people on any assistance.

When I got home from work last night I had planned on making the tomato sauce for a pasta dinner soon, but Mark took over and had the home smelling good with garlic, onion, celery and our 2 cans of tomatoes in no time. The past few days he has been a big help cleaning up the kitchen in between my baking/cooking/prepping messes, but it was nice to release the final dish to his care and relax. :)

Now that we are more than half way done the week, here are some of my thoughts in the past couple of days.

It feels surreal at this point to be maintaining this challenge with the end so near. In this weird state of mind I don't know how to articulate well. I feel I've proven that it is possible to feed a family on very little, but also hope I have shown that the effort and stress of it all is madness. I'm thankful for the supportive people who have followed along so far pointing out the amount of work we've put into making it through the week without reaching big hunger levels of others doing the challenge.

It should be easier for people to find healthy, affordable food close to home. We would not have had the amount we had if not for the 3 hour shop in 4 stores in 3 neighbourhoods. Not practical at all. And would be a nightmare in the rain on transit. Taking hours longer.

One more for Ian.
Yesterday on the way to school, Sasha mentioned "we could do this for a lot longer I think" and I said "no way! not without me having a total breakdown." I'm glad this has seemed relatively easy for her, but weeks of preparation for the challenge, and this week itself have been all consuming for me, and I know I could not maintain this level of planning and preparing on a regular basis unless I had to! Even though we have had portions to share with my friend, by Saturday night we will have gone through almost all of it, even the potato bag. I'll be sure to post a pic of what remains once we're done.

I have followed the Welfare Food Challenge in previous years always amazed by the various ways people get through it, and was stunned that this year the budget for the week was down to $18, and things aren't changing for those on assistance. I was uncomfortable about 'playing poor' for a week, and had friends who shared concerns on this lens too, but ultimately I believe it takes a diversity of tactics, a lot of action, and a lot of voices to make a real difference, and this year I felt we should try lending our voices to the 5th year of the challenge because a decade of stagnate rates is long enough. Thank you to all of you who have taken a moment to sign the petition to Raise the Rates!

We actually have been working poor for a few stretches of time over the years, mostly have always been paycheck to paycheck life. Once lost power because we chose groceries over bills, so we do understand from our own experience too. (And when I was younger I lived out of my car for a week because I had tired of finding places to stay, but at least I had my car.) I have never been someone who deals with financial stress very well, so in penny pinching times of the past I would always procrastinate on paying bills because its so hard to decide how much to pay, and to which important service to make a payment (hydro, phone?), and trying to catch up to zero on all bills takes forever once you fall behind and not enough money is coming in. I had breakdowns regularly, even though I knew at some point we'd catch up again.

It is a relief to have reached a stage where we have enough stability that I don't worry about the regular monthly cost of life anymore. We have all we need, some of what we want, and live simply yet fully. Everything about this challenge has reinforced my appreciation for the benefit this has on my mental and emotional well being, and for my health overall. And I have come out of survivor mode of someone always piecing income together wherever I can. We always benefited from one of us having a stable income so we always managed, even when it was hard. But all the time spent imagining life like this full time, especially with children to care for, made me stressed even though it isn't real for me.

For people in further depths of poverty than I've ever known, just how do you find the inner strength to get through?

The list of stresses of poverty is lengthy, especially if you are a parent. In a press release today, from the BC Civil Liberties Association, Pivot Legal Society, Westcoast LEAF, BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Community Legal Assistance Society, which makes many important points like this,

Some 185,000 people rely on social assistance (aka “welfare”) in B.C., including 35,000 children. Social assistance rates have been frozen since 2007 and sit well below the poverty line. Rates are vastly inadequate to meet recipients’ basic needs and protect their human rights. B.C. is the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction strategy. 
I read this and almost cried:
“Our province’s impossibly low assistance rates mean that many of these single moms are scrimping on food for themselves in order to save their kids from extreme malnutrition. Many of these women also live in fear that their children will be apprehended by the child protection system because of poverty – not because of abuse or a lack of love.”
Someone I know tried joking with me before we began the challenge that Sasha could call him if she got hungry, and he would call social services to come get her and make sure she was fed, but the reality of that situation is not a joke. First I pointed out she will not be malnourished because I would take smaller portions to make sure she has enough, and that he could choose to feed her instead, and also that she would never choose to leave us (maybe by 18 she'll feel otherwise?) But I would be devastated if someone took Sasha because we couldn't feed her, and I don't see the logic in children being removed from loving homes ever. Help families who are hurting, not hurt them more!

However, we are not hurting. We are fine. More hungry than usual, and I have felt less energetic, but otherwise we're pulling through this a-ok.

I'm feeling frazzled and full of rants from the ridiculousness of our systems of 'help', not sure if I'm making sense, and no longer sure what I want to say, so it's likely time to rest. Only 2 more days left for us, and a few more posts to come.

Be well everyone.

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