The Toronto Star complains that OSAP students are only given $7.50 a day from which they must find a day's worth of food.
Of course, the student they selected as the model first complains about having to give up her $4.50 London Fog tea from Starbucks and then complains that she can't afford to buy a submarine sandwich from a sandwich shop.
"The only sandwich Rachel Crane can afford is homemade," the newspaper opines. They also use another student quote to describe a larger allowance as a precondition for "healthy eating". Rachel Crane then complains again: "how many cucumber sandwiches can I eat before I wither away."
Let's get the first lie out of the way. A whole cucumber costs about $2 and a loaf of bread the same. By my estimation, there are around 20 slices of bread in a loaf of supermarket bread, 60 calories in a slice of bread, and enough cucumber slices in a cucumber to fill 10 sandwiches. So, there's your answer: for half your budget, you could eat 10 cucumber sandwiches a day, in total containing at least 1200 calories. And you'd only have spent half your budget. And it'd cost less for all of that than it would for a single London Fog tea from Starbucks.
But why settle for cucumber sandwiches? Late last week, I bought a 10 lb. bag of red potatoes for $3 from my local supermarket. Not only is there substantial nutrition in a potato, but 10 lbs. of the things go a long way -- and a large red potato has over 200 calories. Bags of carrots and onions have similar economy. Garlic is cheap, as is salt and pepper. Vegetable stew, anyone? The remainder of my bag that shopping trip was filled with fruits and vegetables and came to just over $10.
On the weekend, I soaked just over a cup of dried chickpeas overnight and then cooked them to a state of doneness. This is sufficient for part of my lunchtime salad for an entire week. There are approximately 10 cups in a bag of dried chickpeas, and that bag cost under $4. Yes, that's under 40 cents per week.
A heavy bag of rice can be bought for well under $10 and would last for weeks if not months. An onion or two (50 cents in bulk), some curry powder (20 cents for a couple of teaspoons), a can of tomatoes ($1), a chicken breast ($2), and a few sprigs of cilantro from the pot growing on your windowsill (free -- and don't laugh -- I have been growing one all winter) and you could feasibly have 3-4 portions of a relatively exotic chicken curry made up for half of your daily food allowance.
What about rice pudding? Rice, a bit of sugar, a splash of vanilla, and maybe some nutmeg.
I buy a relatively luxurious bag of toasted porridge oats that contains a range of grains and seeds for around $6 -- regular porridge is much cheaper -- and this would probably last for two weeks. So, what's that? 40 cents per breakfast?
If you make your own, you can even afford broader luxuries -- a generous cup of organic, fair trade coffee costs perhaps $1 a cup if you make it yourself. Regular coffee is far, far cheaper.
And at no point have I contravened the idea of "healthy eating". And none of this involves the "Costco membership" that one student says he may have to avail himself of. Last time I checked, Costco was not cheap. You get large quantities but at non-sale prices, and much of the food is rubbish. If you buy fresh food in the quantities they offer, it will not keep. If you buy fresh meat, you are giving yourself a luxury because frozen is cheaper. What's the point?
What you can't afford are trendy drinks, to eat out, and to buy junk food. But, so what?
Is any of this too much to ask of an ostensibly intelligent student? It's not, but I expect the News Of The World to uncover the truth of it before the Toronto Star does.
$7.50 a day is $52.50 a week or over $200/month. As someone who has a full-time salary, doesn't always pay attention to economy, buys organic milk and eggs, Haagen Dazs ice cream and occasional luxuries like fresh salmon and tropical fruits in the winter, my food budget is about $75 a week.
And all of what I've said above also applies to those of you who say that people in poverty can't afford a healthy diet.