Eat For a Week On a $26 Budget

Imagine you had only $26 to spend on food each week. What kind of groceries would you buy? What indulgences would you have to give up? What if you ran out of money halfway through the week? Would such a limited budget for food influence your social life?

“$26 is pretty much my weekly budget for visits to the coffee shop,” says Surrey Urban Mission’s Executive Director Jonquil Hallgate, who at the moment is asking herself many of the above questions as she is getting ready for the Welfare Food Challenge her organization is planning for the second week of January.

The mission’s challenge is inspired by the Welfare Food Challenge put on by the poverty advocacy group Raise the Rates in October of last year.

Like Raise the Rates, Surrey Urban Mission decided to organize the 7-day-challenge to raise awareness for poverty and food security, but also to give people a chance to experience what it is like to walk in the shoes of the many Canadians on welfare, who have to get by on a weekly food budget of $26.

Jonquil believes for most participants of the mission’s Welfare Food Challenge, experiencing the hardships of poverty will be a first.

“Many of us have never experienced poverty and not having enough to eat, which is a good thing of course, but at the same time, when we talk about poverty and food security, we are not talking from a standpoint of knowledge.”

In addition to not exceeding the $26 food budget, some other guidelines are in place:

Pooling money with other participants is not allowed.
Participants should refrain from eating out, or ordering take-out food for the duration of the challenge.
Participants can’t eat food they already have at home (food that has been purchased prior to the start of the challenge).
Participants will be asked not to accept any kind of charity or other food not coming out of their $26 dollar budget.

Jonquil explains that the last rule was put into place keeping in mind that emergency food programs such as food banks and soup kitchens, were never meant to become Canada’s default response to hunger and malnutrition – and a means of survival for Canadians struggling with poverty these days.

“It’s absolutely not possible to nourish yourself in healthy ways on that kind of money,” Jonquil says. “So people either have to rely on food banks and meal programs, or they go hungry. I think it really shouldn’t be that way.”

Interested in participating?

Ready to raise awareness for hunger, poverty and food security issues in your community? Or maybe you just want to challenge yourself and find out if you could manage to live on $26 for food a week?

Join the Surrey Urban Mission’s Welfare Food Challenge by signing up for your own profile page.

Your profile page will allow you to upload a summary explaining why you want to take part in the challenge. Your page will also provide you with an opportunity to maintain a blog detailing your experience.

Here are some other options how you can take action and push local politicians to tackle poverty in BC.

For any questions regarding the Welfare Food Challenge, please contact Jonquil Hallgate at

For any questions regarding your profile page, please send an email to

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