2014 Welfare Food Challenge News Release

Download the 2014 Welfare Food Challenge News Release (PDF)

Media Release
For Immediate Release
October 16, 2014
Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territory

Bif Naked helps launch the 3rd annual Welfare Food Challenge with $21 worth of food

A bag of rice. Two cans of chick peas. Two heads of lettuce. A bag of spinach. A little box of tomatoes and some bananas and zucchinis. That’s all Bif Naked could buy with the $21 she has to eat on for the next week while she is participating in the Welfare Food Challenge.

“It’s not enough to live on,” Bif said at the Woodwards Atrium on Oct 16. She was speaking at a news conference held by Raise the Rates to launch the 3rd annual Welfare Food Challenge. “It humbles me just to be hanging out with this group of people.”

The Challenge is “already a success,” said Bif, “because it is creating some dialogue. People might be motivated to vote and advocate for others. This is a province wide issue.”

The news conference also heard other challenge takers and three people who take the challenge every month because they have to depend on welfare.

Victoria Bull acknowledged the Coast Salish Territories and said that it was really important to raise the rates because people are suffering.

Fraser Stuart said he lives the challenge every day and has 20 cents left for the rest of the month. Fraser said the Tent City at Oppenheimer Park is connected to welfare rates because people on welfare only get $375 a month for rent, which is not enough to rent even the cheapest place to live.

Irene Lanzinger, Secretary-Treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour said she was taking the challenge because she felt empathy for the 180,000 people who do it every day. “In the labour movement we talk about using tax money to help people who are vulnerable and that means raising welfare rates,” said Lanzinger.

Derek Gent said he and his family were taking the challenge. Gent represents VanCity Credit Union. “We’re doing this for one week,” he said, “but it is intolerable that 180,000 people have to do it every day, for months and even years.” Gent said the VanCity board had endorsed the seven recommendations of the Poverty Reduction Coalition. “Among them is to raise the welfare rates.”

Jean de Dieu Hakizimana said he is doing the challenge to be in solidarity with “my African sisters and brothers and people of African descent who live in SROs in the Downtown Eastside.” He said that the amount people receive on welfare exposes them to being mentally ill or arrested.   “If you see people begging in the street it’s because they don’t have enough food,” he said.

“$21 is deplorable for a province this rich,” said Nadine Anderson, a person who receives the disability pension. “You can’t heal or have a chance to look for work.”

Doctor Victoria Lee stated that as a doctor she knows the damage that poverty does to people’s health. People need to spend at least 3 times as much money on food as the $21 that a person on welfare has just to have a basic healthy diet.

Raise the Rates organizer Bill Hopwood said that many people all around the province are taking the challenge, including high school students, teachers, dietitians, university students and even two people with diabetes, which might not qualify a person for the disability rate of welfare. “People do not choose welfare,” said Hopwood. “They have health issues, lose a job, or are fleeing abuse. The problem now is that the low rates are actually trapping people.”

Hopwood ended by calling on the media to ask the government why they insist on wasting the, at least, $8 billion annual cost of poverty when it would only cost $4 billion to end it.

Contact Raise the Rates:

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.

Note on SRO rent:
The City of Vancouver found that the average rent of an SRO is now $450 a month. This contrasts with the Provincial government’s shelter allowance portion of welfare of $375 a month. (Reference: City of Vancouver, Report from General Manager of Planning and Development Services, Feb 24, 2014 to Council., page 4 of Appendix I (page 312 of 320 pages)


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