Participant bio – Lauren Gill
Name: Lauren Gill
About myself: I’m a community organizer and frontline worker in mental health, addictions, housing as well as the survival sex-trade. I was also a Vancouver City Council candidate in the 2011 election.
Why doing the Welfare Food Challenge: I have decided to take on this challenge to stand in solidarity with individuals I know and work with, whose daily lived reality is having to survive off our governments dismal welfare rates, underfed and in substandard housing. I fully understand that my experience of living on a welfare food budget, will be one of privilege and comfort. I acknowledge that even being able to take on a “challenge” is very privileged within itself. For me this will be an experience that only lasts one week. At the end of the week I will probably go back to my regular diet where the food portion of welfare rates would barely cover my coffee intake. I am not currently facing barriers in terms of accessing affordable food nor am I dealing with an illness that may restrict my diet. I also have the privilege of being able to go to my apartment at the end of the day. Throughout the challenge I will be surrounded by supportive people encouraging me to get through the week. This is not the reality for most others on welfare. In addition, people are trying to survive on welfare face all sorts of additional barriers and problems: getting a $173 tickets for selling dumpster-dived goods; affordable housing stock being destroyed for up-market condos, cuts to support systems yet support for developers. We need to change the system, and we can start by providing dignity and health to our citizens and raise the rates!