Jenny Kwan speaks at the Launch of the 4th Annual Welfare Food Challenge

Musician and MP join over 100 others to say, “Raise Welfare Rates”

Download the 2015 Welfare Food Challenge Launch News Release (PDF).

Media Advisory
For Immediate Release
November 3, 2015
Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territory

More photos available free here.

“We have to stand up for our neighbours.” That is what Singer Bif Naked told a news conference at the launch of the 4th annual Welfare Food Challenge today in front of the No Frills grocery store on East Hastings in Vancouver.

Bif is one of over 100 people from all across BC who are spending the week from November 3 through to November 9th eating only what they can buy with $21, the amount that a single person on welfare has left from their $610 allotment after paying for rent and other necessities.

“We have to start look at this as a health issue,” said Fraser Stuart, a man who used to be on welfare, at the news conference. “The government is spending a lot of money health but allowing people to get sick because they don’t have enough to eat. Poverty costs the health system of BC over $1 billion a year.”

Fraser Doke, a man on disability, told the crowd that he is supposed to drink a can of Ensure everyday for his health but doesn’t because he cannot afford it on his assistance.

Cherie Devisser speaks at the :aunch of the 4th Annual Welfare Food Challenge

Cherie Devisser says “I’m already hungry and it is only 10:30 am of the first day.”

“I’m already hungry and it is only 10:30 am of the first day,” said Cherie Devisser a Vancity worker who is taking the Challenge, along with nearly 20 other Vancity co-workers. “I’m hopeful it will help make a change.”

Vancouver East’s new Member of Parliament, Jenny Kwan, showed the food she bought for the week. Kwan plans to eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and apples. “I won’t be able to buy a coffee or a tea,” she said, noting that there was no dairy or vegetables in what she had purchased.

Kwan challenged BC Premier Christy Clark to do the Welfare Food Challenge.

Jasper Joseph speaks at the Launch of the 4th Annual Welfare Food Challenge

Jasper Joseph speaks at the Launch of the 4th Annual Welfare Food Challenge.

“Kids are suffering because they’re hungry,” said Jasper Joseph, a volunteer at the Aboriginal Front Door. “Being in class is hard when you’re hungry.”

Melanie Mark, candidate in Vancouver Mount Pleasant, is also doing the Challenge with her children. “Mt. Pleasant is one of the poorest postal codes in the province,” she said.

Poverty is costing BC $8 billion a year when it could be ended by spending only $4 billion, said Raise the Rates organizer Bill Hopwood. Raise the Rates is holding the Welfare Food Challenge to increase public awareness that $610 a month is not enough for people to live on. “We need the government to raise welfare rates a lot,” said Hopwood.

Raise the Rates will hold another news conference on Nov. 9th at the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House. At this news conference, Challenge participants will talk about what it was like having to eat only what they could buy for $21 for a whole week.

Contact Raise the Rates:

  • Bill Hopwood: 604 738-1653, 778 686-5293 (cell) bill50 [at]
  • Website:
  • Why $21 for a Week’s food

    Total welfare   $610
    Rent (realistic rent for an SRO)* $450  
    Room damage deposit $20  
    Book of 10 bus tickets (to look for work) $21  
    Cell phone (to look for work) $25  
    Personal hygiene/laundry $10  
    Total of all non-food expenditures $526  
    What’s left for food   $84

    $84/m * 12 months = $1008 a year
    $1008/a year/365 days = $2.76 a day
    $2.76 a day * 7 days = $19.33, generously rounded up to $21
    No money for clothes, a coffee, haircuts, or any social life or treats.


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