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Civic Impact

Fife House challenges volunteers to eat for $6.65 a day

Fife House, a Toronto organization that provides housing and support services for Toronto residents living with HIV/Aids, has challenged seven privileged Torontonians to eat for a week on a restricted food budget.
Many Fife House clients live below the poverty line, meaning that in addition to the challenge of managing their condition, they often struggle to afford nourishing food. In order to demonstrate just how difficult it can be to maintain a healthy and sufficient diet while living on a fixed-income, Fife House recruited seven prominent Torontonians to participate in their week-long Trying to Thrive on $6.65 challenge.

As the name suggests, the initiative asks volunteers to spend one-week eating for $6.65 a day. The challenge officially kicked off this past Monday, and will end this Sunday, April 7th.
The volunteers--Toronto City Councilor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Toronto Centre-Rosedale), Fife House executive director Keith Hambly, Fife House board president Bruce Mayhew, Fife House board member and clinical practice specialist Colleen Kearney, Ryerson Sociology professor Doreen Fumia, and food blogger Cory Pagett--are also spending the week blogging on their experience.
Participants are allowed to spend $6.65 per day or $46.55 for the week -- meaning they can buy food for more than one day so long as they don't exceed the weekly budget. And, besides spices, participants are not allowed to use any of the food currently in their kitchen.
A reoccurring theme in the blog posts is that eating on a restricted budget means not only compromises in quality and quantity of food, but also requires a significant time-commitment.
"I'm reflective of the time investment it has taken to get to this point," writes board president Bruce Mayhew after buying his week's worth of groceries, "over an hour last night to hunt through the flyers....what store has my desired grocery at the cheapest price. The time (and gas), it has taken to visit four stores. All this to ensure I don’t overspend and to make sure I make the best overall decisions possible."
As Mayhew points out, though the challenge is difficult, the volunteers are still only experiencing a slice of how difficult eating on a restricted budget can be.
The time commitment, the use of a car, and access to technology (internet and excel) are just some examples of the privileges that Mayhew has access to that may not be as accessible to those living below the poverty line. Moreover, Fife House clients are also dealing with the ongoing stress and side effects of living with HIV/AIDS.
Fife House is hoping that the Trying to Thrive challenge, and the reflections which emerge from it, will bring attention to the importance of the food and meal programming they provide to their clients.
At the end this month, Month Fife House will host their annual Taste for Life fundraiser. The one-night only event has participating Toronto restaurants donating 25 per cent of their dinner revenue on the evening of April 24th to the Fife House Meal programs. So far, 50 restaurants are on board, and Fife House expects to raise $90,000 from this year's event.

Follow the progress of the ‘Trying to Thrive on $6.65’ volunteers here.

Writer: Katia Snukal
Source: Fife House
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