I call my struggle with this daily food budget a “project”.  “Melissa” calls it “Thursday” (or Friday, or Monday or any other day of the week for that matter). 
I spoke with Melissa.  She is a single mother of two boys (ages 6 years and 10 months) on social assistance.  At the moment she has $5 to her name.  This sum will be replenished next week, but in the meantime, she hopes she’ll have enough food to last until then.

When Melissa receives her cheque at the end of the month, her biggest challenge is stretching it to the end of next month.  Once the bills are paid and whatever clothes and necessities are bought for her kids, there is very little leftover for food.

Her 6 year-old is a picky eater.  What a surprise.  He prefers grapes and green apples over steamed vegetable.  Another shocker. A typical dinner for him is fish sticks, French fries and grapes or apples.  Mid-month, however, with little money left in her wallet, green grapes can get pretty far of reach for her boy.  At $32.99/tin for formula, feeding her infant is no picnic either.  As for Melissa, she rarely cooks herself a full meal but never let on to me that it was because of cost (how could she? She typically eats Mr. Noodle), more likely that with 2 young children in the house, she has little time or energy.

She shops at Giant Tiger not because it’s cheaper (which it is) but because it’s right next door.  A health nurse visits occasionally and offers milk vouchers which is a big help. 

I am selfish and missing my Friday night Mr. Mozzarella pizza night, so I ask her:  “When times are better for you, what food are you most looking forward to adding to your shopping list?”  What an stupid question.  Melissa can’t even think that way right now.  She said she’s just looking forward to not having to limit her family so much on everything and not having to worry about running out of whatever food she can buy.

I ask her opinion of our social assistance programs in Ontario.  “It’s just not enough”, she answers, though she is quick to add she is very grateful for the help.  She is optimistic and is working towards getting herself a job by next year.  She knows she’s having a hard time, but she sees people around her ever day who are much worse off.  

I would need a miracle to make $5 last until next week, but I am beginning to realize there are lots of miracle workers, like Melissa, living among us.

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About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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