Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day 7: Wednesday October 22


Last day. Morning is difficult. My roommate commented that I was looking more tired daily.

I had learned my lesson and made sure that I ate some protein for breakfast. I had again two tablespoons of the Greek yogurt with the usual Shreddies and blueberries. I felt hungry about an hour later, and toasted 1/2 of a Everything bagel, and ate half of it with a tablespoon of cream cheese. Throughout the morning, I was feeling much better than yesterday.

Lunch was 2 eggs and 2 cups of steamed rice with some soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, and sesame oil.

For afternoon snack, I had the 1/4 bit of the bagel with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.

For dinner of a sort, I had a piece of salmon roll, and a piece of BC roll.

And that was it. I did not quite make it to the technical cut-off of the midnight, because I was out in the evening and gave in to a beer, got quickly drunk (or "tipsy") on an empty stomach at about 1/4 pint, and decided that I should eat a bit of the last emergency protein bar to prevent myself from passing out and falling off the stool.

Food count

2 tbsp Greek yogurt: $0.36 (Greek yogurt has more protein than egg by weight, I think)
10 Shreddies: $0.05
10 blueberries

1/2 bagel: $0.50
1 tbsp cream cheese: $0.18
1 tbsp peanut butter: $0.006 * 12 = $0.10

2 cups rice: $0.15
2 eggs: $0.70

2 pcs sushi rolls: $1.00

$ 3.04


* I am writing this last log in the morning of the 23rd, eating a $5 combo of an English muffin with ham, eggs, bacon and cheese and coffee.

* Weekend To Do #1
Send all those I have talked to about the Challenge a follow-up email. I will attach the links to the Cost of Eating report and the online petition to raise the rate. I will briefly share my experience over the Challenge and things I have learned.

* Weekend To Do #2
Write a similar email to the MLA.

* Weekend To Do #3
Go grocery shopping, cook, possibly bake too, and share.

* General To Do
Research more, think more about what more I can do to help, and act.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 6: Tuesday October 21


I wanted something savory for breakfast, so I ate a cup of the broccoli soup with 1/4 cup of steamed rice. Then I made an instant coffee like yesterday.

Throughout the morning I felt dizzy and lightheaded. I ate a quarter of a bagel with 1 tablespoon of cream cheese, then half of a pluot.

To fight off the constant feeling of fatigue, I ate 2 fried (without oil) eggs, and rice with a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil. I felt better soon, but in a couple of hours I was feeling tired again when I was not even hungry.

My brain stayed foggy, and when I got on the bus at 2:30 to go to a volunteer duty, I realized that I had forgotten to pack any food or water. After the volunteer work, I missed the bus, and slowly walked for 40 minutes to catch another bus. On the buses I slept because I was too tired to stay away.

I got back to the lab at 6PM, and ate almost everything I had in the fridge - 2 cups of steamed rice, 1/2 cup of the broccoli soup, 10 grapes, and even one emergency BabyBel cheese. I felt full, bloated, and not good at all.

Food count

3.75 cup steamed rice: $0.52
1.5 cup broccoli soup: $0.30
Instant coffee: $0.40
1/4 bagel: $0.12
1 tbsp cream cheese: $0.17
1/2 pluot
2 eggs: $0.70
10 grapes: $0.25
1 BabyBel cheese: $0.40
1 After Eight: $0.07


Not counted: 1/2 pluot


* Today was the worst. For the entire day I felt so helplessly tired, and like half of my brain was gone and the rest was washed out. I walked and moved slowly, took much longer to do the same tasks, forgot things, and made mistakes.

* The severe, sustained fatigue is something different from the attacks of restlessness, anxiety, and irritability I expereinced from hunger. I am perhaps, on the sixth day, starting to see signs of prolonged or repeted hunger / malnutrition.

* I also became quite depressed. I did not feel well at all, and could not enjoy things as much as I did before. I subsequently felt very sad that people should be put in such a state by food insecurity. Food insecurity was something so much more than simply not having enough food - it must profoundly affect one's capacity in life and mental health.

* On the way back to the lab, I kept on thinking to myself that when I have my own family, I would never let them go hungry. Strangely, such thought had never occured to me before, because I had never really experienced hunger. I thought about how poverty and food insecurity are such remote and strange concepts to many who grew up in affluent countries, and how the problem of hunger was not something so unfamiliar even to my parents' generation in Korea. I remembered my father telling us stories about growing up in a post-war slum and asking American soldiers for chocolates. I thought the experience of being hungry and not having enough to eat can impress a person very deeply, because it takes away one's very basic freedom and dignity as a human being.

* So, what can I do?

Day 5: Monday October 20


Breakfast with 2 tablespoons of the Greek yogurt, 10 Shreddies, and 10 blueberries.
Since I am unable to afford the 40-cent coffee, I am trying a couple of different instant coffees. Roommate let me try her "Make 260 Coffees or More" Nescafe Rich instant coffee. It was not bad and cost 7 cents.

Morning snack was 7 chestnuts.

For lunch, I had 1.5 cup of steamed rice with 1 cup of broccoli soup. The soup actually came out a bit salty, and good to dunk a dollop of rice in. This may be filling but not very nutritious, since white rice is pretty much just carbohydrate, and the soup consists only of broccoli, rice, and chicken bouillon.

I am learning that as I am learning to stave off hunger with more carbs in the diet, I cannot do anything about the constant fatigue.

At 4PM, by the end of the afternoon meeting, I was again in that extremely anxious, restless, and irritable mood, which was now almost a daily occurrence. I rushed back to my desk as soon as the meeting was over, and had a 1/4 cup of oatmeal and 16 Korean grapes.

Dinner was 1 cup of steamed rice, and the last 1/5 of the sweet and spicy tofu.

And then in the evening, I had a homemade mini butter pecan tart at my church small group meeting. Gah. I could not resist.

Food count

2 tbsp Greek yogurt: $0.36
10 Shreddies: $0.05
10 blueberries

7 chestnuts

2.5 cup steamed rice: $0.18
1 cup broccoli soup: $0.20

1/4 cup oatmeal: $3 * 40/1000 = $0.12
16 Korean grapes: $0.40

1/5 sweet and spicy tofu: $0.40

1 mini butter pecan tart


Not counted: 10 blueberries, 7 chestnuts, 1 mini butter pecan tart


* In some days I am eating less than $3. Not sure if this is a good thing.

* I am telling everyone about the Challenge. Most find it funny / interesting, but don't give it much thought. I am reading through the last section of the Cost of Eating report on the recommendations and "what can you do?" and thinking about what can be done to create a true impact. Raising awareness is good and important, but I am also thinking about what comes after that.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 4: Sunday October 19


For breakfast, I had 1 cup of soy milk with 10 Shreddies and 10 roasted black beans.

During the morning I slowly ate 1/2 of the baked sweet potato.

Lunch was 1/4 of an Everything bagel, 1/4 cup of steamed rice, and 1.5 cup of broccoli soup.

In the afternoon I went to Costco for a price check and to GardenWorks. This time, I carried the half of the sweet potato in a container and a water bottle.
Being in a crowded Costco and immersing myself in the stupefying abundance of everything made me feel happy and for a while forget entirely that there was food insecurity in BC or anywhere else in the world. I took a sample of a fried jalapeno cheese stick.
While in transit I often took out the container and ate my sweet potato pieces. I was a bit embarrassed in the beginning but then I did not care - I was simply trying to stop feeling so weak and lightheaded.

I came home and had 1/2 cup of rice and 1/5 of sweet and spicy tofu for dinner.

Food count

1 cup soy milk: $0.53
10 Shreddies: $0.05
10 roasted black beans

1 baked sweet potato

1/4 bagel : $0.12
3/4 steamed rice: $0.06
1.5 cup broccoli soup: ($0.19 * 4 + $0.20 * 2 + $0.10) * 1.5/6.5 = $0.30

1/2 jalapeno cheese stick

1/5 sweet and spicy tofu: $0.40


Not counted: 10 roasted black beans, 1 baked sweet potato, 1/2 jalapeno cheese stick


* I see that I am gradually moving toward the high carbohydrate diet. Proteins and fresh produce are more expensive, less portable, and do not keep as well.

* Is Costco a good shopping option for a low income family? Even when I am buying for myself, I like to go to Costco occasionally because of its certain level of quality and generally low price. I would buy meat and poultry to freeze, bulk veggies, and personal care and home products that last me nearly a year. Is the annual membership of $55, or less than $5 per month, a significant barrier?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 3: Saturday October 18


For breakfast, I had a cup of soy milk with 20 Shreddies and 20 roasted black beans, and felt pretty full. I think my stomach is shrinking.

For the mid-morning snack, I ate the last quarter of the Fuji apple from yesterday.

Lunch at noon: a cup of steamed rice, and 1/5 of sweet and spicy tofu.

During the early afternoon, a labmate offered me an After Eight. Together we calculated one After Eight mint chocolate thin cost approximately 7 cents. This was not too bad. I took the chocolate.

I was hungry around 3PM, and decided to eat my Korean grapes. I had bought them on sale at H-Mart last Sunday. They were of a kind that could not be frozen, and they were going to spoil soon. I did the cost calculation, and ate 15 grapes at 38 cents.

The grapes were delicious but were not very filling. At 4PM, I ate the leftover from the lunch: 1/2 cup of steamed rice, and 1/5 of sweet and spicy tofu.

At 4:30PM, I left the lab to go to GardenWorks and then Saturday evening service. I took an emergency protein bar, but forgot to bring water. Walking to and from GardenWorks from the Holdom station made me pretty thirsty. There was a Starbucks and a convenience store by the station, but, of course, how could I spend, for a bottle of water, more than half of the day's food budget? I waited till I got to the church to drink from the water fountain.

I ate a third of the protein bar around 6PM, then the rest around 8PM on the way home.

When I got home at 8:30PM, I was at again in the hungry + angry stage. I violently opened my rice cooker, took a cup of steamed rice, put a dash of soy sauce, a teaspoon of sesame oil, and another teaspoon of my roommmate's special Chinese spicy sauce, and mixed with impatience. The rice was the most delicious thing I had eaten for a long while. Thank goodness for rice - I could not have survived without it.

The rice was very filling and I did not feel hungry until I went to bed nearly midnight.  Before then I made a pot full of broccoli soup with 4 cups of frozen broccoli florets, 100 grams of rice, and 2 cubes of chicken bouillon. I also baked a sweet potato in the toaster oven.

Food count
1 cup soy milk: $0.53
20 Shreddies: $0.10
20 roasted black beans

1/4 Fuji apple

1.5 cup steamed rice: $0.10
2/5 sweet and spicy tofu: $0.80

1 After Eight: $11 * 1/150 = $0.07
15 Korean grapes: $10 * 1.3/12 * 15/43 = $0.38

1 protein bar = $11 * 1/14 = $0.79

1 cup steamed rice: $0.07
A dash of soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp Chinese spicy sauce


Not counted: 20 roasted black beans, 1/4 Fuji apple, soy sauce, sesame oil, spicy sauce


* I am spending a lot of time writing and updating these logs.

* I am also spending a lot of time just thinking about food and its cost. I think about how much I have eaten, how much I have left, how much I am eating right now, and what I should eat tomorrow and stay in the budget. This is one of the impressions I had from the last year's Challenge also. Being on welfare must be that food is not simply taking up a majority of the financial budget; it is also taking much of the person's time and mental effort. Simply, by restricting the food budget, I lost the freedom and choice to fully concentrate on other things in life. Keeping the body not hungry and moderately healthy becomes a constant burden and concern.

* The Cost of Eating report does not even include luxuries like take-out or prepared food. For these, you are paying not just for the food but for the convenience. During the challenge, I am spending more time thinking about making my food portable, and when I fail to make sufficient preparation ahead of time, I am forced to stay hungry or thirsty.

* I am not sure how much we can expect that a person finds time and mental effort to always have well-planned food plan, cook everything from scratch at home, and pack meals and snacks every single day, while having a full work and social life. Of course, the health aspect should come first when we talk about eating, but there are things like convenience and social connection that we don't discuss often and that will be sorely missed by those who take them for granted in daily life - like sleeping in and then picking up a coffee and muffin at a coffee shop without worrying that just cost the lunch and dinner for the day.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 2: Friday October 17


Breakfast: 2 tbsp of strawberry Greek yogurt with 10 pcs Shreddies, 10 frozen blueberries, and 10 roasted black beans. I buy a ton of blueberries in summer and freeze them in Ziploc bags. Mom sends me roasted black beans from Korea. I made coffee like yesterday.

Mid-morning snack was a quarter of a small cantaloupe and 10 more of the roasted black beans.

Lunch was a cup of steamed rice and a cup of pineapple pork, a leftover from few days ago.
I had chopped up a piece of pork chop, and cooked it with half of an onion, broccoli, pineapple pieces and a tomato. I am not quite sure how to calculate the cost of this, but don't think it would be very much since what was left was mostly sauce with some veggies and 4-5 small pieces of pork. After the meal, I made another coffee with a Maxim Mocha Gold coffee mix stick.

Then I got a text that my supervisor was buying everyone sushi lunch.

So I went and announced about my challenge in front of a feast of various rolls, nigiri, sashimi, and appetizers from our favorite Japanese restaurant. Most seemed to find it mildly amusing, but some were interested in knowing more and discussing about the issue of income assistance and poverty.

The lunch was followed by a meeting with my supervisors. During the meeting, I became extremely hungry. I had learned that hunger puts me into mood swings, and I was about to burst into tears after a great meeting with very happy and satisfied supervisors. I controlled myself and ran back to the lab to eat a mandarin orange and 3/4 of a Fuji apple.

Dinner was 1/2 cup of steamed rice and 1/5 of tofu, cut and lightly fried and with a sweet and spicy sauce.

Food count

2 tbsp strawberry Greek yogurt = $3 * 60/500 = $.36
10 pcs wheat cereal = $3 * 10/65 * 1/10 = $.05 
10 blueberries
coffee = $.40
1/4 cantaloupe = $.50 
10 roasted black beans  
1 cup cooked rice = $0.075
1 cup pineapple pork

1 stick coffee = $.12      
1 mandarin orange 
3/4 Fuji apple 

1/2 cup cooked rice = $0.0375
1/5 sweet and spicy tofu = $2 * 1/5 = $.40     


Not counted: 10 frozen blueberries, 10 roasted black beans,  1 cup pineapple pork, 1 mandarin orange, 3/4 Fuji apple


* I should find out how much the orange and apple cost. Also possibly that pork chop from Costco.

* Note the food costs are approximate and often do not include taxes.

* Coffee is expensive. I am spending 1/6 of the daily food budget on making a cup of coffee.

* Cantaloupe is expensive.

* I am now determining the expensiveness of a food item by its capacity to reduce hunger. This makes me realize now the food for me is primarily for i) fighting hunger and ii) providing energy. My usual thoughts about what I want to eat or trying something new and better are completely out of question. This would deprive me of not only personal sense of enjoyment of food, but a large part of my social experience and connection with others consisting of eating together and talking about what we eat, cook, buy, etc.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 1: Thursday October 16


Breakfast around 9AM. I toasted a half of an Everything bagel, slabbed it with herb and garlic cream cheese, and topped it off with shavings of smoked salmon. The bagel and cream cheese were bought few days ago on sale at Nesters Market, and friends had given me a piece of smoked salmon that I put in the freezer. 
I ate 1/3 of the bagel and 4-5 cubes of cantaloupe, and ground 20g of coffee beans to make a coffee to go. I also add 1/3 cup of hot soy milk to the coffee.   

During the morning and lunch time, I slowly ate 2/3 of a flax muffin, a leftover from yesterday, with a cup of herbal tea. While warming the muffin in the lunch room, a Muslim labmate and I had an interesting conversation about the challenge and Ramadan fasting; one of the motivations for the fasting, I am told, is to remind oneself of those in need. I also took two of my daily multi-vitamin gummies. 

At 3PM, I gobbled up the rest of the toasted half-bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon while another labmate pointed out the absurdity and hypocrisy of someone supposedly on welfare eating cream cheese and smoked salmon. I took an iron supplement pill. 

Throughout the afternoon I don't have much energy. I can feel that my concentration level is low and I am struggling to get things done.  

At 4:45PM, I ate 8-9 cubes of cantaloupe before I left to my piano lesson. I told my piano teacher about the challenge and the current welfare rate of $610 had not been increased since 2007. She, a grandmother, found the whole thing utterly ridiculous. ("How do you survive??")  

At 7:00PM, on the bus back, I ate the emergency Babybel cheese.

At 7:30PM, I was very hungry and very cranky and without any energy to do anything. If I was at home, I would have probably skipped the dinner entirely, like in the last year's challenge, but I had to stay in the lab and work this time. The labmate J generously offered me one of his instant noodles, which cost only 33 cents. I usually don't eat instant noodles because I think they have poor nutrition and probably not very healthy. But I really had no other choice. I ate the noodle.  

Food count

1/2 everything bagel = $3* (1/2)/ 6 = $.25 
2 tbsp cream cheese = $3 * 30/260= $.35
cantaloupe = $2 * 1/4 = $.50
2/3 flax muffin = $1
1/3 cup soy milk = $4* .08/1.89 = $.17  
1 med. coffee = $8* 20/400 = $.40
1 herbal tea = $.15
Babybel cheese = $9 * 1/22 = $.40
instant noodle = $.33
= $3.55 

Not counted: shavings of smoked salmon, pieces of veggies in the noodle soup


* As in the last year, I am taking the challenge while trying to eat my own food. It reminds me that even with my food habits that I consider to be relatively healthy and modest - I buy seasonal and on sale items, make most of my own food and do not overeat or throw anything out, and overall eat relatively little - it is practically impossible to eat "freely" with $3 per day budget.  

* Also as in the last year, I am finding how expensive it is to eat prepared food. That 2/3 of a flax muffin cost me approximately a third of my budget and did little to abate my hunger. 

* I created the following to-do list for the week:
1. Continue the challenge 
2. Tell people about it 
3. Continue reading the Cost of Eating BC 2011 report (very interesting and informative) and share it with others 
4. Write to my MLA, Jane Shin