Raise the Rates
c/o CCAP, 401 Main St,
October 20, 2013
Dear Adrian Dix,
October 16th was World Food Day, a day to remember the many people in BC and around the world who suffer Food Insecurity. In BC at least 11% of the population, and over 15% of children, are food insecure. (http://nutritionalsciences.lamp.utoronto.ca/annual-report/).
For a week, starting October 16th, people across BC are voluntarily eating only the food they can buy with $26. This is the amount of money a single able-bodied person on welfare has for food after paying rent and damage deposit, phone and bus tickets to look for work, and minimal personal hygiene. Many thousands of individuals and families have to get by on this every week.
The Dietitians of Canada estimate that a healthy adult female should spend at least $50 a week on food and a male should spend $60 a week, just to buy a basic diet with no ‘luxuries’ such as coffee, sugar, or a glass of wine (http://www.dietitians.ca/Secondary-Pages/Public/The-Cost-of-Eating-in-British-Columbia.aspx). This assumes no special dietary or health needs, which many people on welfare have or develop due to poverty. To spend what the dietitians say is the basic necessity on food, a person on welfare would have to spend all their welfare money on food and shelter with nothing for clothes, hygiene, looking for work, etc.
Food is a necessity of life. Food is also important for social connections – we meet friends for a coffee, a drink or a shared meal. Food brings our families and friends together. People on welfare, as well as going hungry, suffer from the inability to share food with friends and family.
We know that poverty costs the health system over $ 1 billion a years. If we include all the other economic costs, poverty costs BC over $8 billion a year, while the cost of a comprehensive program to end poverty would cost less than $ 4 billion – a saving of over $800 for every adult and chid in BC every year (http://www.policyalternatives.ca/costofpovertybc). In addition there would be huge social and emotional benefits which are not capture by money values. Read some of the experiences of people taking the welfare food challenge (https://welfarefoodchallenge.org/ go to Blog). They are only living on the welfare diet for one week. At the end of the week they can go back to eating and enjoying healthy food, and sharing food with others. But even one week is hard.
You know the facts. You know that low welfare rates and poverty cause enormous personal suffering, harms human development and well-being, and damage the economy of BC. The evidence based arguments to ending poverty are overwhelming.
As leader of the Opposition BC you could make a huge difference. If you committed to a meaningful raise in welfare and ending poverty in BC it would shift the political debate.
On behalf of Raise the Rates