A Walk in Other’s Shoes is returning to this year’s Week of Action Against Poverty. This challenge is being undertaken by individuals in the community who have interests within the health field. Participants have been asked to attempt to stay within a social assistance benefits’ budget. A single person on Ontario Works would receive $337 monthly for all of their personal needs and $384 for all of their shelter costs. Because participants cannot replicate the housing conditions realistically, shelter costs are not included within this challenge. For the five day challenge, participants will have $11 daily to cover all food and drink, entertainment, some personal supplies and transportation costs. Each day, every participant will be given a challenge card which will reveal an unexpected challenge to be completed before the end of the day.

A Walk in Other’s Shoes is not a competitive challenge. It is a challenge that raises awareness of the hurdles that people living on social assistance face daily. As we within our community develop our own understanding, we can begin to reduce the barriers that they encounter and ultimately increase opportunities for increased prosperity for all. The challenge takes place February 10th-14th, 2018.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Walking with a little wandering

Cough cough cough … as per my challenge card today I headed downtown to seek out some cold medication.  Prior to heading out I thought about some of my options: home remedies (honey + lemon + hot water), see the doctor / nurse practitioner (but I feel this is not necessary on day one of what feels to be just a bad cold), well my challenge card did say “purchase” some items so better get walking.

Ouch!  Cold medication is expensive!  I decide to go with the store brand that contains a few doses of daytime medication and a few doses of night time medication, I chose the smallest box and will hope it gets me through the worst of the cold.  $6.76 later I hope I am on my way to feeling better.

The medication is kicking in so I continue on my way …

Over to the Neechee Friendship Centre to check out the food hampers I recently heard about.  On Tuesdays between 10am & 3pm (closed from 12-1pm) clients and non-clients alike can access a food hamper (one per family per month).  I was hoping to have a peek at a hamper but unfortunately there were none available for viewing at the time.  Staff did describe some items in the hamper - pasta, canned goods, and snacks for kids’ lunches.  Contact them for more info at 807-468-5440.

I’ll continue my walk … 

Picture this ... 
Bright red table cloths, table settings neatly in their place, a server wearing a crisp clean white apron serving each course of the meal with a welcoming smile on her face, the hum of quiet conversation among patrons at each table … this pleasant setting is what I found when I arrived at the Agape Table at Knox today.

(of the mouth) wide open, especially with surprise or wonder.

[ah-gah-pey, ah-guh-pey, ag-uh-]
noun, plural
the love of God or Christ for humankind
unselfish love of one person for another
love feast


I have always wondered about the Agape Table and I have always wondered what the word “agape” means.  All of the above definitions fit what I experienced today.  What a wonderful place to come for a meal.  The Agape table and many other community meals take place in our community each week.  Check out this link via the NWHU website for more information: I visit at Knox for little while and am on my way again …

Budget update: $8.87 remaining (but let’s be real … if this was 100% real life I feel I likely wouldn’t have a penny left at this point … more on that tomorrow)

Nutrition & Physical Activity update:
Fruit & Veggie servings today = 4
Extra Walking (walking as a result of the challenge) = 7 km

Cough cough cough

Day 4 today.  Challenge card opened and apparently I've got a bad cold ... more about the rest of the day to follow ...

"You have a nasty cold.  Purchase some items to curb the symptoms."

Monday, February 12, 2018

Happy Monday

Usually my day would start at 4:50 am, waking to my alarm, crawling out of bed, throwing on some workout clothes and heading out to the door to be at Boot Camp ready to work out for 5:30 am.  Boot Camp doesn’t fit in my budget this week so I slept in … well sort of … alarm went off at 5:00 am.  I threw on some workout clothes got to work on a home workout.  A good warm up followed by:

AMRAP = As Many Rep/Rounds As Possible (in 20 minutes)

(Please note: I am not an exercise professional, you should always consult your healthcare provider before undertaking a physical activity program).

I am a firm believer that physical activity doesn’t have to cost a whole lot, or anything for that matter …  Walking, running, body weight movement, use water bottles or soup cans, just getting “up off your butt time”.  Below are some FREE ways be active in our community:
- The Neechee Friendship Centre offers a variety of activities for free, including Boga Fit, Ballroom Dancing & Yoga
- Do you know of more?  I’d love to hear!

Shortly after my workout I opened my challenge card for the day:

“Lost your hairbrush.”

Luckily I’ve been avoiding washing my hair too often during the challenge and didn’t need to today – running my fingers through my hair did an ok job for this morning.  I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on a new one somewhere throughout my day.

Today was my first day of work since the challenge has started.  I work at the Paterson Medical Centre and had a personal appointment to attend at the rec centre late morning.  I would rather not spend the $2.50 each way on a ride, I have clients booked all day and the bus times won’t work, so I put on my warm walking clothes (for which I am more and more thankful for) and made my way over and back.  

The walk gave me some perspective into what people do to do get to appointments here at the Paterson Medical Centre.  It is not an easy place to get to.  It is a long / cold / snow covered walk, the bus schedule isn’t great, a taxi wouldn’t be cheap because it is kind of out of the way.   I needed an extra hour in my day to make the walk – this extra time is something I often do not have at work, it is something that many people may not have.

While walking to and from my appointment I did swing into a grocery store for a bag of iceberg lettuce salad ($1.97) which perked up my lunch and picked up a new hairbrush ($1.13).  Thankful I had room in my budget for both.

Meals so far today: 
Breakfast: oatmeal with peanut butter and a fruit cup
Snack: apple + hard boiled egg
Lunch: salad + quinoa + chickpeas
Snack: banana + rice cake with peanut butter
Supper: to be determined

I feel my nutrition has been fairly good to this point, but I have to admit … I’m missing meat (and I’m not a big meat eater to start), finding lean protein sources on a budget is TOUGH, I’m getting sick of carrots already, I might actually get tired of hard boiled eggs by the end of this.  I’m learning tons about what it is actually like to stick to a food budget this strict and this is only 5 days, I'm feeling a bit like I can’t even begin to understand what it would be like to do it day in and day out …

Budget update: $15.63 remaining

Nutrition & Physical Activity update:
Fruit & Veggie servings today = 6 (not including supper)
Extra Walking (walking as a result of the challenge) = 5 km

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Shoes and Such

Challenge #2: “Your child needs a second pair of shoes for inside at school.  How will you take care of his need?”

A few options that come to mind:

- Look for a second hand pair on a buy and sell group on Facebook (ex. Baby Traders).  I need internet access.  The library is closed today.   If I have a phone or tablet I can walk somewhere to use free wi-fi.  If I do find a pair to purchase I’ll have to pick them up - that could be tough depending on the location.

- Look for a second hand pair at “Twice Is Nice” downtown … but they are closed Sundays & Mondays.

- Access the Minto Resource Centre and the items they have available.  I was there on Friday and they seemed to have a great stock pile of this type thing … but they don’t open until Tuesday.

- Look for an affordable pair at a local store.

Heading to a local store in hopes of a good deal is probably my best bet if I can’t wait for the Minto Resource Centre to open on Tuesday.  Off I go … 4.5 km round trip walk to the store.  I get lucky!  Found a pair - $4.60.  I feel sad they are not his favourite colour.  I feel sad they are not the ones with his fav tv character.  I worry the school will be upset if the sole marks the floor.  I hope they will do.

How did the rest of my day look?

Cleaning, getting stuff done around the house and hanging out with my boys.  Used part of the container of Lysol wipes I purchased to clean the bathrooms and the kitchen (I’ve never made each wipe go so far!).  

My son decided he wanted to eat everything I was eating.  Little does he know I’d give anything to eat what he has available to eat!  My personal stash of food purchased from my $55 budget has a few more dents in it thanks to my boy, but that is reality, as parents we always want to see them fed first.  Clients regularly tell me, “I buy fruit and veggies for the kids, but not for myself.”  I am gaining a better understanding of this everyday.

Meals today:
Breakfast: Cheerios & half a banana (My 50% off bananas are great!  No brown spots inside!)
Snack: apple + a hard boiled egg
Lunch: oatmeal + peanut butter (this might be a new fav!)
Snack: a couple of carrots
Supper: chickpeas + whole wheat pasta + frozen veggies (My $2.27 frozen veggies are … well … a little heavy on the carrot side.  See pic below.  The bag claims it also contains cauliflower and broccoli, but they are few and far between … starting to miss daily dose of fresh veggies and salad.)

Budget update: $18.73 remaining

Nutrition & Physical Activity update:
Fruit & Veggie servings today = 5 (mostly carrots … I might turn orange)
Extra Walking (walking as a result of the challenge) = 4.5 km

Parties & Pondering

Day 1 was a day of parties.  A day of new challenges.  How do I get there? How do I get home?  How much earlier do I need to leave?  What if I didn’t have the winter clothing I needed to walk?  What if I had to bring my son?  What’s the temperature?  What’s the windchill?   What is the bus schedule?  What if I wasn’t physically able to walk this far?

Two parties to attend in one day.  Not usually a challenge.  Usually this would just be fun.  Not usually something I would even have to think about.  “Think” … I can’t even begin to describe how much thinking I’ve done over the past day … exhausting … and I keep thinking how much more exhausting it would be if this was permanent, if I didn’t get to go back to normal life in 4 more days.  Back to the parties …

Party #1: 90th Birthday Party.  Happy Birthday “Nana Pat”!  I would usually have driven to and from the party without thinking twice, but today I walked.  I had to leave earlier, I got home later and got multiple odd looks from my wonderful family who were not actually judging my party attire (snow pants, giant parka, toque, walking boots) but were curious as to why I chose to walk.  Lots of conversation about the Challenge today.

Party #2: Boot Camp Party.  I really like boot camp, I really like the people I workout with, I would really like to go to this party, but this one posed a new challenge … it was a long way from our house … 9 km to be exact.  What are my options?  Drive?  Nope.  Wouldn’t have a car in this life.  A taxi?  Nope.  Too expensive.  The bus?  Check out the bus schedule here.  Nope.  Doesn’t run late enough / often enough / etc etc etc (side note - I feel an entire blog post could be dedicated to this one!).  Walk?  I guess this will have to do.  So I bundled up and walked 9 km one way to the party.  9 km gave me 1.5 hours of thinking time … thinking about how exhausting this would be if it was my reality, thinking about how lucky I am to have the warm clothes to make this walk bearable, thinking about how lucky I am to be physically able to do this walk, so much thinking.

Budget update: At the end of the night I paid $2.50 to a friend for a ride home.  Leaving me with $23.33 for the next 4 days.

Nutrition & Physical Activity update:
Fruit & Veggie servings today = 3 (lower than any Registered Dietitian would recommend, but reality today)
Extra Walking (walking as a result of the challenge) = 13 km

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Daycare Difficulties

My challenge card of the day:

“You have been offered a job.  You need to find daycare for your 14-month old child starting next week.  She is not potty trained.  What are your options?”

My first thought, "I've got this".  I’ve got a 3 year that is still in daycare.  From our experience local options can be divided into two categories:
  1. Licensed daycare - I believe unsubsidized rates are around $64 per day from 12-18 months
  2. Home daycare - rates vary, from my experience $35-45 per day

We have experienced both home daycare and licensed daycare - we have had amazing experiences with both.

My challenge card did not provide any additional information regarding the type of job, wage, hours, etc.  I’m going to go with minimum wage, full time employment, meaning I will need full time daycare.  (Disclaimer:  I understand this is not always - or maybe even usually - the scenario but the options could be endless with regards to hours, wage, etc so let’s go with this for now.). 

Walking through the options:

  1. From my understanding there is only one licensed daycare in town that takes children aged 12-18 months, and even if I could afford the $64 per day, which I cannot on minimum wage, today is Saturday and I need care for Monday morning!  Option number 1 = out.  (With more time I would likely apply for a subsized spot, but I am not sure on the availability, eligibility, etc).
  2. Home daycare - I posted on the local Home Daycare Facebook group - this seemed to get people talking -some great replies.  One shared idea outlined trading daycare between families as needed and even for skills / services (ex. esthetic services if that was your speciality).  Another offered home daycare at a rate lower than I had heard of before - $30 per day.

Crunching the numbers: $14 per hour for an 8 hour day = $112 (before deductions).  $30 per day is taking at approximately 30% of my daily income - OUCH!

Needless to say, the "I've got this" thought quickly faded ...

Day 1

Here we go!  My initial thought, “What have I gotten myself into?!”.  No backing out now.  People live this reality and they can’t back out.

My second thought, "I am not a blogger" ... again, here we go!

Last night I did most of my grocery shopping for the next 5 days.  See a pic of my haul below.  I hit up Dollarama and No Frills and spent $29.17 total, leaving me $25.83 for the next 5 days.  Being a Registered Dietitian, the grocery shopping was big for me, I truly had to think about each and every item I picked up and that is reality for some of the clients I see.  The challenge started as soon as I got to the store … I forgot my list … nope, not going back to get it, no car.  Shopping took me twice as long as it usually would.  I went from Dollarama to No Frills and back again.  I tested out some of the recommendations I make to clients:

  • Go for frozen vegetables ($2.27 for a bag that MAY get me through the next five days if I ration it)
  • Look high and low on the shelves for store brands (that one worked but I did need to ask a taller customer to reach two items for me)
  • Aim for whole wheat and compare prices carefully, if the price difference is small enough go for whole wheat (whole wheat pasta was more expensive - $1.27 at No Frills, white pasta at Dollarama - $1, I chose to spend the extra 27 cents to get the whole wheat, I can honestly say I see why some people wouldn’t)
  • Check the produce section for 50% items, stores will put items that are close to their expiry or not looking their greatest on sale for 50% off (I purchased bananas that were bagged and marked 50% off, 2.5 lbs of banana at 0.77/lb would have been almost $2, I paid less than $1 for the 5 bananas … will let you know how they are once I open my first one).
  • Aim for no salt added canned foods (my no salt added chickpeas were the same price as the salt containing chickpeas)

In preparation for my shop (and the rest of these 5 days) I did a little of bit research.  The Northwestern Health Unit has a great page on Community Food Programs:

This led me to chatting with the Minto Resource Centre.  They’ve got some amazing resources for families in the community.  What I learned:
  • If you have a family you are pretty much eligible
  • Open Tuesday-Friday
  • Unbelievable number of programs - Baking in Bag, Hot Lunches, WoMan’s Kitchen (not restricted to women only), there is a small store where you can purchase some basics for a very minimal cost (see picture below), a plentiful stash of donated items families can access at any time they are in need, Breakfast coupon program which provides a coupon for milk, bread & eggs for $2 … and the list goes on ...

Check out their calendar and a poster regarding some of the amazing stuff they offer:

Like I said … Here we go!  … Off to the rest of Day 1.