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Managing your wallet and diet on a student budget

A selection of fresh apples at the Granville Island Public Market. Photo: Sean Hitrec

Reported by Sean Hitrec

As the Welfare Food Challenge wrapped up its week-long campaign, students with a notoriously low budget are still having to find unique ways to cope with their situation.

Last month, participants in the Welfare Food Challenge had to live on $18 worth of food for seven days, which is what people on welfare receive. The challenge was held to highlight how difficult it is to live on so little. Students usually have more money than that to spend on food, but they too have a limited budget.

Students handle budget shopping differently

Christa Siminiuk, a third-year nursing student at Langara. She said she shops between two different stores to get the best deals she can on food. Photo: Sean Hitrec

Christa Siminiuk, a third-year nursing student at Langara, gets around $4,000 a semester in student loans, so she tries to shop for deals by going to one place for produce and another for meat.

“It’s always a source of contention every time I go get groceries.” Siminiuk said. “There are cheaper places, but I don’t have a car, so I find that for me, Donald’s is the best for produce and nofrills [for meat].”

Bill Hopwood, an organizer of the Welfare Food Challenge, said there is a balance between eating cheaply and eating well.

“A lot of people talk about food in Vancouver. So, at one end you have organic free range, locally grown, which is great,” Hopwood said. “At the other end you have people eating survival food. The two conversations don’t often cross.”

Dave Schwartz, a second-year criminal justice student at Langara. He said he usually just shops on the go, since he is too busy to think about buying economically smart. Photo: Sean Hitrec

For Dave Schwartz, a second-year criminal justice student at Langara, finding good deals on food is not a priority. Schwartz said he is too busy to shop economically.

“I work too much outside of [school], so it’s usually just food on the go.” Schwartz said. “I just get the stuff I need and whatever price it is, that’s the price.”

For dietary help while living on a budget, students can call 8-1-1, a free B.C. government nursing and dietary hotline. HealthLink BC also has a page with a number of tips and information on eating on a budget.


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