Rory Sutherland

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Vancouver. I work at the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, an organization with the right to access nutritious food in a dignified manner at the heart of its operating philosophy. Many of our neighbours have one or more serious health issues and compromised immune systems. The abysmally low income assistance rates mean that those most in need of high quality nutrition are unable to access it. Rents have skyrocketed which is clear from this year’s $18 calculation and it is impossible to eat well with this amount. It’s absurd that this is allowed… Read More

Trish Mandewo

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Coquitlam. I am the owner of Vancouver Tumblebus and the Founder of SensaBus Society of BC. As a business woman and community leader, I focus my philanthropic efforts on children’s causes. My passion stems from the fact that I was on welfare as a child and I know how it feels to not know when your next meal will be. Poverty has the biggest impact on kids. Having a clear mind and focusing on school work is impossible on an empty stomach. I made a choice to live on less this week… Read More

Chantille & Sebastian

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We are participating in the Welfare Food Challenge this week because people have a right to food that will keep them healthy and happy, and $18 dollars a week is not enough to do that. It is appalling to me that the government continues to have income assistance rates which keep people living in poverty. Poverty is a political choice and I hope that our participation will encourage people to be as angry as I am about this, and that they will make this a key issue for our province in the… Read More

Gordon Neighbourhood House

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There are 10 participants in the Welfare Food Challenge participating as a Gordon Neighbourhood House team. The team includes staff, board and volunteers. We are participating as an act of solidarity and a way of bringing urgent attention to the need to raise income assistance rates in BC.

Steve Kim

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Vancouver. As a local resident of the Downtown Eastside, I’ve gotten to know some of my friends’ daily reality and struggle being on welfare. At Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP), we’ve also helped advocate with Raise the Rates. By doing this challenge, I want to stand in solidarity with my friends – to experience a sliver of their experience, and together demand an increase in welfare rates. I expect the Welfare Food Challenge to be incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Blog:

Melanie Mark

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Vancouver. Melanie Mark is the first First Nations woman to serve in the B.C. Legislature, and is a newly elected member of the New Democrat Official Opposition, first serving as the Deputy Spokesperson for Housing and now appointed as as the Official Opposition Spokesperson for Children and Family Development. Melanie is passionate about building communities that thrive on quality social services, prosperous economies, and environmental sustainability. Raised in East Vancouver, she has spent much of her life standing up for the Vancouver-Mount Pleasant community in a variety of leadership capacities. She is… Read More

Fiona Devereaux

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Registered Dietitian – Victoria. I love all aspects of food and nature. As a dietitian I share my passion for food daily. Over the past 16 years, clients have courageously shared their food struggles living on Social Assistance. I am passionate about cooking, harvesting and growing food. Making healthy food delicious, accessible and fun is a key aspect of my job. I have tried to tackle this challenge by making all food from scratch. This challenge will force me to practically reflect on what I recommend and how the advice impacts my… Read More

Elaine Watts

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Dawson Creek. As a Registered Dietitian working in a rural community I work with people that are faced with food security challenges on a daily basis. I can blabber on and on about how healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive and can be done on a limited budget, but I am very quickly silenced when someone tells me that all they can afford to buy is peanut butter and bread. I have pledged to take the challenge to raise awareness of the human suffering that results from social assistance below the… Read More

Lillian Yin

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Maple Ridge.Not long ago, I returned to beautiful BC from University. I am a registered dietitian by day, and a foodie by night. In the pursuit of my degree, food security has always prodded my curious mind. In our food system today, why and how is it that some of us can afford fancy organic and locally produced foods, whereas others struggle to determine where their next meal will come from. Currently, I spend most of my time in a diabetes clinic. Every so often, someone walks into the clinic with their… Read More

Jeff Lee

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Richmond. As a UBC student with diversified volunteering experience in UBC and Richmond Foodbanks as well as the Vancouver Coastal Hospital Shop-by-Phone program, I have witnessed how poverty and infirmity jeopardize people in the lowest stratum of our society. On Thanksgiving Day this year, before the Welfare Food Challenge program starts, I thanked my parents for having provided me so long with lots of love and material provisions. I told them that I am going to step out of my comfort zone from October 16, 2016 for a week to experience first-hand… Read More

Kombii Nanjalah

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Vancouver – I’m an activist, community leader and organizer. I’m taking the Challenge to say loudly to the world that all has not been well and will not be until we make a change using whatever means possible. Canada and Vancouver have put the people in a situation that others from developed countries won’t understand. People often have to work 3 jobs to sustain ourselves. Poverty wages mean people are on the edge of being not able to make ends meet or being homeless. And for those on welfare, $610 a month… Read More


Photo of Samantha

Surrey. My mom raised 2 teenage girls on welfare and it was a definite struggle. We wouldn’t have made it without supplementing from food banks and charities (such as the year we were adopted as someone’s Christmas family through a local church). It has been a long time since I’ve been so limited by funds and I remember the daily challenges of being on such a strict budget. I am participating in the challenge this year to not only raise awareness of the issue, but also to reconnect with a part of… Read More

Krista Funes

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East Vancouver. I am a proud Vancity employee with a background in sustainability living in the vibrant community of East Vancouver. I am passionate about social and environmental justice and alternative business models that create a more equitable society. I am taking the welfare food challenge to build awareness and empathy for underserved groups who are dependent on welfare and disability. The cycle of poverty will continue to affect our province until a poverty reduction plan is established with clear targets that build capacity within our communities to help lift people out… Read More

Ian Marcuse

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Vancouver. Ian Marcuse is a community food developer with the Grandview Woodland Food Connection, a Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Network, whose principal mandate is supporting community members who are struggling to access healthy and affordable food. Our organization is interested in furthering systems change work that addresses the underlying causes of poverty and food insecurity. As part of this work, is the need to build awareness of food insecurity in our communities while exploring the relationships between the lack of food access and the many intersecting social policy areas, including income assistance, housing,… Read More

Track Family

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Laura, Seth, Solomon (13) and Sophie (11) – East Vancouver. We’re nervously anticipating a week eating on a $72 budget. We all have active and busy lives – lots of commuting by bike, hockey practices, dance classes and soccer games. We’re interested to see how our energy levels – and moods! – fluctuate over the course of the week without our usual varied, nutritious and plentiful diet to sustain us. Preparing for the welfare food challenge has been an interesting exercise – the night before the challenge began, we went out for… Read More

Lena Danyluk

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Vancouver. As a new person to Vancouver who is shocked at the price of housing, I was even more shocked to hear of the low rate of welfare and the way it can create more barriers to people finding a job, as who can find a suitable place to live for under $610? I expect to find the challenge difficult, but that I will come to a new place in relating to food and to my neighbours who currently live on social assistance. I will also post on Facebook &

Lauren Semple

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Nanaimo. The 5th year of the Welfare Food Challenge will be my first year participating. The truth is that the $610 a month given in welfare to a single person in this province was inadequate in 2007, and is even more so in 2016! I believe that no one should have to choose between the basic necessities of life when managing their monthly budgets in a province as prosperous as British Columbia. We must be louder and bolder when advocating for the most vulnerable members of our communities, to keep these paramount… Read More

Katelyn Siggelkow

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Vancouver. In the 2 years I’ve lived in Vancouver, I’ve built meaningful relationships with people who survive on welfare rates of $610/month. One such friend recently shared this theory with me: “middle class people live in their insulated homes and do everything to promote personal security and stability, they self-protect and actively avoid pain. But those of us in poverty, we experience a lot of hardship. And it’s that hardship that inspires us to action.” I&rquo;m doing the Welfare Food Challenge again this year to get a small glimpse of the hardship… Read More

Grace Min

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Vancouver. This is my second year participating. It was such an eye opening experience and I was surprised to see other people’s genuine interest and curiosity when I talked about #welfarefoodchallenge. I was also deeply moved by the encouragement and support I received from my community. It’ll be hard but we’re all in this together and I want to take this opportunity to raise my voice and challenge the system. Twitter:

Elise Fairey

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Vancouver. I am a Pediatric and Prenatal Dietitian with a love for food and cooking. I will be participating in the 2016 Welfare Food Challenge with my partner, Kevin Martins. Over 35,000 kids and many thousands of pregnant women in BC rely on welfare – times when nutrition is critical to growth and development. These children will inevitably struggle with malnutrition by living on welfare. I hope by participating in the Welfare Food Challenge that I am able to help spread awareness, advocate for raising the rates and better appreciate the struggles… Read More

Dinah Johnston

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Vancouver. I have been on a constant journey learning the best way to achieve optimal health. Health for me includes all aspects of being human including the mind, body and spirit. I am a recent graduate of the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and studied Kinesiology at the University of Ottawa. I am hoping to start my own practice as a Holistic Nutritionist in the near future and love to write, play outside and share food with friends and family. I have recently started working as a cook and hoping to improve… Read More

Carlos Luis Bermudez Sevilla

Photo of Carlos Luis Bermudez Sevilla

Vancouver. I am Carlos, a Venezuelan man who came to Toronto to learn English. After that I applied for a college to study Hospitality Management in Vancouver which is my new home. I work as a server at Pepitas Restaurant, recently graduated and hoping to set up my own Food Truck in the near future. I am doing the challenge because I know how difficult it is to get some food and to pay rent with just a little bit of money in your pocket. I am Venezuelan, unfortunately my country is… Read More

Andrea Reimer

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Vancouver. Inspired by Mayor Gregor Robertson’s leadership to join Vision Vancouver, Councillor Andrea Reimer was first elected to Vancouver City Council in 2008, and re-elected in 2011 and 2014. She had previously served as a School Board member with the Green Party from 2002–2005. In her original campaign for City Council, Andrea made commitments in three key areas: greenest city on Earth, a city of compassion and opportunity, and a city of strong communities In her three terms on Council, Andrea has spearheaded a number of initiatives including the first ever comprehensive… Read More

Alex Murata

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North Vancouver. I am a recently graduated student of Psychology and Communications and am involved with the Powell Street Festival Society and the Japanese Canadian Young Leaders of Vancouver. Living an active lifestyle in this city is important to me and being privileged enough to be adequately nourished is something I feel that I and others can so easily take for granted. By participating in this challenge I hope to help shine some light on the inequities and imbalances many Vancouverites and British Columbians many be unaware of. I expect to be… Read More

Irene Lanzinger

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Burnaby. Irene Lanzinger was elected President of the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) in November 2014. The BCFED represents more than 500,000 working people from affiliated unions across the province, in every sector of the economy. Irene is the first woman to be elected as President of the BCFED. She has a long history as a strong leader in the labour movement and is deeply committed to advancing equality, protecting vulnerable workers, and strengthening workplace safety. Prior to being elected President, she served as Secretary-Treasurer for the BCFED from 2010 – 2014…. Read More

Angela May Kruger

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Vancouver. I am a 25 year old woman living in Vancouver, BC, on Unceded Coast Salish Territories. I love my friends, family, and like most people, the things that make me feel grounded and whole. For me, that is reading, listening to the same music over and over again in different circumstances, sitting with nostalgia even when it feels uncomfortable, and whatever else. A couple years ago, I completed my BA at the University of Victoria (English with a minor in Political Science). I live with my grandma and my cousin, and… Read More

Spencer Chandra Herbert

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Vancouver’s West End. Spencer Chandra Herbert has been elected by the residents of Vancouver West End-Coal Harbour to serve as their MLA three times. A fighter for the underdog, Spencer has been an outspoken advocate for his community, and people across BC. This summer, Spencer helped win a big victory for human rights when he convinced the government to finally act on his call to explicitly protect gender identity and expression in BC’s Human Rights Code. Always looking for solutions, Spencer worked to co-found Vancouver’s Rent Bank, which has now prevented hundreds… Read More

Shakira Miracle

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Abbotsford. I am a middle class spouse and mother of two. I grew up as a poor, frequently homeless, sister of one, and raised by my single mother. I have seen both sides of existence and know that it is not as simple as pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. As a child, we didn’t necessarily experience life; we survived, day to day. Without opportunities and privileges, which can take many forms that most of us not living on the edge take for granted, I would not have a stocked fridge AND… Read More

Saul Castanon

Derek Gent

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Vancouver. Derek is taking the Welfare Food Challenge together with his wife, Jen Lindberg, and a number of colleagues at Vancity. In his day job, Derek is Executive Director of an arms-length Community Foundation associated with Vancity Credit Union in Vancouver. He is proud (but frustrated) to serve on a number of nonprofit boards and committees (still) working to address issues of poverty and improved public policy, including First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, the Living Wage Campaign, BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, Gen Squeeze and Imagine Canada. Derek took the… Read More

Chris Wilson

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Coquitlam. As a Coquitlam city councillor, I truly care about those in our community – especially those who are disadvantaged. Having an active, healthy lifestyle and social inclusion are two very important parts of my life, but unfortunately for someone living on $610/month, it’s virtually impossible. Metro Vancouver has the highest cost of living in the country, yet our welfare rates haven’t been increased in almost a decade. From an economic standpoint, I truly believe that raising the rates is a smart and compassionate investment in the future of our province and… Read More

Jenny Kwan

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Vancouver. For over 20 years, Jenny Kwan has fought for the people of East Vancouver—and in 2015 was elected to represent this community in Parliament. Born in Hong Kong, Jenny immigrated to Canada at age nine. After graduating from Simon Fraser University, she worked as a community legal advocate in the Downtown Eastside. And in 1993, she became the youngest city councillor elected in Vancouver’s history, distinguishing herself as a fearless voice for the community. In 1996, she was elected MLA for Vancouver—Mount Pleasant, becoming one of the first Chinese-Canadians to sit… Read More

Victor Elkins

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New Westminster. I am the President of the Hospital Employees Union (HEU). I am a long-time activist, and have spent more than two decades advocating for and defending public health care, workers’ rights, and human rights. I have been foster parenting many amazing children for more than 15 years. I have witnessed the impacts that poverty has had on some of the kids I’ve fostered, and the disadvantages they begin their lives with as a result. They have come from homes where parents or grandparents tried hard to put food on the… Read More

Amanda Jensen

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Kamloops. I am the 1st Vice President of the Kamloops Thompson Teachers’ Association. I really wanted to take this challenge because I see the needs that students in our classrooms all over the province face and I believe it is atrocious that hunger seems to be a huge obstacle to being able to learn. More and more children are coming into our classrooms without access to nutritious foods, and without it, have a far more difficult time concentrating and attending to what it happening in their classrooms. I see our local food… Read More

Lindsay Bissett

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Surrey – I am proud to participate, for my second time, in the Welfare Food Challenge. During the day I am a recruiter for an incredible company, Vancity, where I am fortunate to meet many amazing people. During my extracurricular time I am Vice Chair of Vancity’s Diversity and Inclusion Alliance, Board Member of Surrey Not For Profit Baobab Inclusive Empowerment Society, and a dog loving, suburb loving, avid Netflix watcher. I thought I was pretty in touch with social issues but experiencing this challenge last year with $21 for the week… Read More

Malik Jamal

Photo of Malik Jamal

Vancouver. Originally from Karachi, Pakistan, I’ve been living Vancouver for the past six years and have come to call it home. Social justice is very important to me and I believe that inadequate welfare rates are an infringement on human rights. Coming from Pakistan, it saddens me that such a developed country continues to marginalize its people. It is truly unacceptable how little is being done to alleviate poverty and to support those who need it most. I hope that my participation in the Welfare Challenge helps highlight the need for this… Read More

Katrina Pacey

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Vancouver – My name is Katrina, and I am the Executive Director of Pivot Legal Society. Pivot works on behalf of marginalized communities to create a just, fair, and equal society through litigation, law reform, research, and legal education. I am participating in the 2016 welfare food challenge because of the completely unacceptable situation in BC, which has one of the highest poverty rates in Canada, no poverty reduction plan and appallingly low welfare rates. In September, when the Food Bank inventory was at an all time low, I realized the desperation that… Read More

DJ Larkin

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Vancouver – I am a lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society and a member of the 2016 Pivot Legal Welfare Food Challenge Team. I’ve been working for years with people experiencing homelessness and marginal housing, focusing on what systemic changes are needed to improve their circumstances. The first change is a raise to income assistance. Not only are people starving, they are being criminalized for trying to make ends meet. Whether it’s being ticketed for street vending, run out of town for panhandling, evicted from a park for sleeping there or getting… Read More

David MacIntyre

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Vancouver – I am the Executive Director of MPA Society, an agency that supports people with mental illness throughout the Lower Mainland. Over the last 16 years, I have witnessed the creativity and courage of people struggling to make such limited funds last throughout the month. This Welfare Food Challenge is a stark reminder of the challenges many of the most vulnerable people in our communities face on a daily basis. While I am not looking forward to this week or the hunger that is certain to come, it is a recognition… Read More

Trina Moulin

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Coquitlam. I am a high school teacher who lives in Coquitlam and teaches in Burnaby. I became aware of this challenge through the BC Teachers’ Federation’s Social Justice newsletter, which mentioned that our president, Glen Hansman, would be doing the challenge. I thought about the possibility, but a reason occurred to me why I wouldn’t be able to commit: I’m a student. I am currently enrolled in a continuing studies program. How could I possibly work as a teacher during the day and still have enough energy to go to class and… Read More

Ruth Ellen Brosseau

Photo fo Ruth Ellen Brosseau

Quebec. Ruth in an MP for Berthier—Maskinongé, Quebec. She is currently the Agriculture and Agri-Food Critic and vice-chair of the NDP National Caucus for the third time. She is happy to once again defend the interests of farmers and speaks out about the many issues that are important to her. Ruth Ellen Brosseau grew up in Hudson, in the Montérégie region of Quebec, but she is first and foremost a proud mother to her 15-year-old son Logan. She studied Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications at St. Lawrence College in Kingston. Elected for… Read More

vanessa bui

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Vancouver / unceded Coast Salish territory (Musqueam, Squamish & Tsleil-Waututh nations). i am a queer, genderfluid (they, them, theirs), first-generation vietnamese, working class, abled youth born, raised, and currently residing on the unceded and occupied territory of the Coast Salish people. most of my life has involved navigating the academic and nonprofit industrial complexes, and now, more recently, i invest energy in facilitating conversations and actions around anti-oppression, decolonization and community organizing. as a member of the Vancouver Youth Food Policy Council, i am participating in this year’s Welfare Food Challenge as… Read More

Mary Clare Zak

Photo of Mary Clare Zak

Vancouver. This campaign holds both professional and personal meaning for me. In my Social Policy role with the City of Vancouver, I understand the evidence: that one in five residents in Vancouver are poor, that the gap between rich and poor in Canada is growing, and that this gap is wider in Vancouver than other urban centres. And what poverty means in the short and long term: weaker social bonds, a weaker economy, overall a weakened resilience to withstand socio-economic and ecological shocks, and importantly, the erosion of values that as Canadians… Read More

Tom Kemple

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Vancouver – I am a professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia interested in understanding the sources and consequences of the problem of social inequality. As a member of the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Advisory Board, I believe that insights and solutions can be generated from community building at the local level.

Robyn Turner

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Vanderhoof – I am a Registered Dietitian working with Northern Health in Vanderhoof, BC (the geographical centre of BC). It is a small town of about 4,000 people (per Google), but is lively with its friendliness. I moved here in February from Victoria, BC, which is my hometown. As a health professional, I work with individuals of various backgrounds and economic status. It is important to me to be able to relate to the individuals I see so I can be sure I am providing the best care. By participating in this… Read More

Peter Blair

Photo of Peter Blair

I live in Squamish with my wife Mairi, I am a retired surgeon, now working as an Executive Medical Director in Fraser Health. I am concerned about poverty reduction through a more progressive tax structure, free daycare, and early childhood education. Taking the Welfare Food Challenge will increase my awareness of the effect of poverty on food security and through social media I hope to have an opportunity to spread that awareness. I will post on facebook:

Norma Blissett

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Cranbook – I decided to participate in the Raise the Rates, Welfare Food Challenge because I know that this is an important issue for British Columbians and I thought that I could use my position as a City Councillor to help promote this important public issue. I realize that it will be challenging to spend only $18 on food for a week. I normally spend quite a bit of money on food and so I thought it would be interesting to see if I could manage on such a small sum. Just thinking… Read More

Jessica Hannon

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Vancouver – Jessica is the executive director of Megaphone. Megaphone offers meaningful work to people experiencing poverty and homelessness, while building grassroots support to end poverty. I am participating in the challenge because I believe in the power of stories to make change. According to the National Nutritious Food Basket, the weekly budget necessary to buy nutritious food in B.C. for a single person was roughly $72—four times the $18 you have on social assistance. And it’s steadily going up. But numbers alone don’t move us to action. It’s people that have… Read More

Glen Hansman

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Glen Hansman, President, BC Teachers’ Federation. Vancouver – The BCTF has long supported the work of Raise the Rates, and commends its efforts for continuing to call attention to this very important issue. BC is an incredibly expensive place in which to live, and the welfare rates being what they are, the current affordability crisis only compounds the tremendous challenges facing individuals living off of welfare. This has consequences for both adults and children. BC continues to have a shameful child poverty rate. Teachers are tremendously concerned about the effect of poverty… Read More

Rosey Luc

Photo of Rosey Luc

Vancouver. I taking on this challenge because past volunteer experience in Surry. I observed kids coming to school hungry and couldn’t focus in school. I am bringing my three kids on this Food Challenge because I want to them understand the struggles that other kids are going through when their parent are sick and have be on social assistance. Food is the basic necessary to life, I want our government to acknowledge it. No kids and adults should be hungry in this first world country. It needs to end once and for… Read More

The Stott Family

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The Stott Family, East Vancouver. My name is Sarah, and along with my husband Darren, son James (10) and daughter Emma (8), we’re a little nervous for what this Challenge week will have in store for us! I work at Vancity as a Marketing Manager, and Darren is a business consultant in the local, organic food industry, so social impact and food are at the core of our life choices. Living in East Vancouver also means we bump into the effects of poverty on a daily basis, and we try our best… Read More

Kathleen Cherrington

Photo of Kathleen Cherrington

Toronto ON. I have been working as a community support worker with homeless and impoverished populations in Vancouver and Toronto for over ten years. One way to increase the social determinants of health in homeless and impoverished populations is to increase food security measures. How can we expect anyone to have socio-economic upward mobility if they do not have enough to eat? I expect that I will not succeed in this challenge although I hope to bring awareness to this social issue. Twitter @CherryKat75 Tumblr

Geneva Neuman

Photo of Geneva Neuman

Langford. I have had volunteer experience in food banks, and find myself constantly amazed by the amount of people still in need in our bountiful country. By taking this challenge I hope to have a more profound understanding of those living in poverty. Raising welfare rates is necessary because in Canada nobody should go hungry, and we need to raise the rates so that our disadvantaged can meet the cost of living. As an aspiring nurse, resident of BC, and a human being, I believe that we all need to contribute so… Read More

Amanda Travis

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Port Coquitlam. This is my first time doing the Welfare Food Challenge. I was inspired by many of my colleagues at Vancity Credit Union who have attempted the challenge in past years. They recall their experiences as being both humbling, and inspiring. I am proud to be standing among my colleagues and friends, as advocates, to raise awareness and to begin to understand the reality for those living in poverty in British Columbia.

Aaron Guillen

Photo of Aaron Guillen

Burnaby. My name is Aaron and I’m the Staff Reporter for The Other Press, the Douglas College Newspaper. I’ve had my eye on the Welfare Food Challenge for a while and I’m participating in the challenge this year. Every week, we have a feature, which is the cover of our newspaper, and I would love to spotlight the Welfare Food Challenge. I’m a full time student and hope to find an greater appreciation for the privilege I have in my life to go without worry for my next meal.

Susan Ladner

Photo of Susan Ladner

Vernon. I am a single mother of one….and a garden faerie. I am taking the challenge because I think its shocking at how little some people have to live on. It doesn’t seem real. And in the coming week, I think reality is going to hit pretty hard. So hard that I’m almost getting fearful. I’m already stressing about how I can afford organic coffee. I think I have a headache already…. I am a vegan who believes in organic food. I put away as much as I can while food is… Read More

Rachel Stewart

Photo of Rachel Stewart

Vancouver. I live and work in the downtown eastside, recently moved here, and am interested in learning more about the challenges that my neighbours face day to day, many of whom are on welfare. Please find the photo attached. I will be posting some experiences on facebook and sending out emails to relatives and friends. Thank you for all your work and perseverance.

Molly Henry

Photo of Molly Henry

Vancouver. Molly is a lifelong Vancouver resident and works in the Mayor’s Office at the City of Vancouver. “My goal as a participant in the Welfare Food Challenge is to highlight and bring awareness to the harmful impacts of decades of cuts to our social safety net. It’s unacceptable that our neighbours struggle to have enough food, and this Challenge is one small step I can take to advocate for a fairer and more just world.” Links: and

Caledonia Thomson

Photo of Caledonia Thomson

Vancouver. I am a 4th year undergrad student at UBC. As students, we often feel like we have it tough – and some of us do. However, the reality is that, personally, I have always had enough for that emergency cafe sandwich or Starbucks coffee between classes. I am taking up this challenge in order to experience how it feels to be unable to afford not only these luxury items but even the most basic necessities required to live healthily. Posting on: Stranger Waters (student-run website, launching next weekend)

Jessica Lee

Photo of Jessica Lee

Vancouver. I am a new resident of the Downtown Eastside! I moved here in July hoping to make friends and participate in the many vibrant communities around. By participating in the Welfare Food Challnege, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of my neighbours’ experiences and learn what issues need to be tackled to help empower people to achieve their basic rights, and move on to seek personal and communal flourishing. You can follow my experience at: or

Devon DeSmet

Photo of Devon DeSmet

Denver, CO. I am doing this challenge to see the realities people face in the U.S. I also want to see if I can prove that it is possible to eat healthy on a welfare budget. I think that I will be able to have more understanding about the struggles so many American’s face, after completing the challenge. I think that it is amazing how many people survive on less than $30 a week, but my question is can they thrive? Can we meet our nutritional needs on that type of budget?… Read More

David Kerruish

Photo of David Kerruish

Vancouver. Born and raised in Australia, I’ve been fortunate enough to call Vancouver home since 2011. When I arrived, I was struck by the profound sense of community and inclusiveness. However, increasingly I’ve been concerned by the growing inequality we see around us in Greater Vancouver. By joining the Welfare Food Challenge, I aim to demonstrate how challenging it is to survive on social assistance, but also that anyone can be an advocate for change to highlight and address inequality. We are all able to take action to say it’s not ok… Read More

Bryce Casavant

Photo of Bryce Casavant

Port McNeil. I am from the Comox Valley, but I currently live in Port McNeil. I am also a former B.C. conservation officer who made international headlines last year for refusing to kill two orphaned bear cubs. I currently work for the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources and I am seeking the NDP nomination for Courtenay/Comox. Too many people aren’t able to afford full, healthy meals for their families, and that is something I struggle to understand in our affluent province. I am taking on the welfare food challenge… Read More

Allison Felker

Photo of Allison Felker

I’m fortunate to work as the Manager of Donor Engagement and Fund Development at Vancity Community Foundation. As I plan my menu for the one week that is the Welfare Food Challenge, I’m reminded that not having access to nourishing amounts of healthy food is the daily, ongoing reality for far too many people. Our province of plenty has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country, and we still do not have a poverty reduction strategy. It’s time to change public policy and Raise the Rates, now.

Whittam Family

Photo of the Whittam family

The Whittam Family – Kathy, Mark and Sasha. Mt Pleasant neighbourhood, Vancouver. We have signed up for the 5th Annual Welfare Food Challenge to support the work of Raise the Rates, and help highlight the inadequacy of welfare rates in BC. As a family that has often lived paycheck to paycheck, we have always made food the item we splurge on when we can’t afford much else. We love our ability to support small local businesses and farms, organic and fair trade as much as possible, and we know this is a… Read More

Rita Domeij-Evenden

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Coquitlam. This is my first year participating in the Welfare Food Challenge and after watching my colleagues and friends participate last year I know this week will not be easy. I work for a fantastic company called Vancity Credit Union as a Consultant for Process Simplicity. Along with that I’m lucky to have the opportunity to act as the Secretary for our Diversity and Inclusion Alliance and teach Financial Literacy through our Each One Teach One program. This year it is important to me to participate fully in the challenge, not to… Read More

Cynnimon Rain

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Masters of Public Health student with a focus on Social Inequities and Health at Simon Fraser University. I am part of a small group of 2nd year Masters of Public Health (MPH) students from Simon Fraser University’s Department of Health Sciences (Burnaby, BC) who recruited some additional friends from Vancouver to take the Welfare Food Challenge in solidarity with us. Two of us took the challenge last year and found it extremely difficult while trying to manage our course workload. This year with only $18.00 available for food, we are concerned about… Read More

Ilene Toth

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Langley . I am a proud mother of 8 children. I work at Vancity as a Learning Consultant. This is my second year taking on this challenge. My two youngest children will be joining me this year (Tabatha 10 years old & Telohan 9 years old). WE are doing this challenge to RAISE AWARENESS about the children that are affected by this each and every day. Eating healthy should not be such a struggle and if the BC Government would get their act together and “raisetherates” this would at least give families… Read More

Debby S Martins

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Vancouver. I work as a dietitian with children with a complex chronic disease. Every day, I’m surrounded by families on welfare, families who can’t work because they’re the only ones trained to care for their child. As their dietitian, I worry about their nutrition, but not infrequently do I worry that their parents aren’t eating enough. Proper nutrition is crucial to the child’s recovery, but with limited resources, the financial burden of certain treatments, of repeated and prolonged hospitalizations, of traveling for regular clinic visits, often puts healthy food near the bottom… Read More

Ashley Huth

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Port Moody. I’m in my 30’s, married and doing the challenge this year to hopefully shine a little bit more light (collectively we can do a lot!) on why raising the rates is not only important, its life changing and necessary. What I will experience in one week will be nothing in comparison to the challenges this poses in the everyday lives of our community members. I will be sharing with my peers on our internal social media platform, with my friends, family at

Annie Ohana

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Surrey. I am a human, a teacher, a social justice curriculum specialist and Aboriginal Teacher Advocate. For myself the Welfare Food Challenge is an attempt to look at the issue of poverty from an intersectional standpoint of its effects on many aspects of life. The fact that I have many privileges means that I need to use those privileges as a powerful tool to advocate for those who are too often seen as undeserving, and uncounted. It is never easy completing such a challenge, but I know that the one week I… Read More

Allison Mander-Wionzek

Vancouver. I was born into a single parent family of five children. Throughout my childhood and youth my family relied on government support and subsidies, which were never enough to make ends meet. My mother struggled daily to feed us and clothe us, all the while neglecting her own basic needs. Thanks, in large part, to my education, and in equally large part to the values and ethics instilled in me through these early years, I have found myself with access to a lot. A lot of resources, a lot of opportunities,… Read More

Alana Prochuk

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Vancouver. I’m taking the Welfare Food Challenge because I believe that food is essential to human health, functioning, and happiness, and I hope that the Challenge will make more people aware of hunger in BC and inspire them to demand change. Although I know the Challenge is just a safe exercise for people who have secure access to food, I’m nervous about the seven days of restricted eating that lie ahead. I anticipate feeling gross and tired, sleeping badly, feeling left out of social occasions, and struggling with my mood and concentration… Read More

Eleanor Wong

Vancouver. This is my second year involved with Raise the Rates, Welfare Food Challenge. I found it to be a starting point for dialogue around the issues of poverty faced in our own backyard. It is hoped that this will bring awareness to folks who are busy with their routines and schedules and don’t have time to dig into social issues that are on the perimeter of their daily lives.

Laura Gair

Vancouver. I am the Community Food Programmer at South Vancouver Neighbourhood House (SVNH) and a member of the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks (VNFN) working group. As an advocate for food security in South Van I work to help improve food access, literacy and quality for families and community members experiencing barriers to healthy food by connecting them with community programming. The community-based approach aims to increase cross-cultural knowledge sharing of how to use nutritious ingredients, improves neighbourhood connection, and increases access to food assets. I’m happy to be able to take part… Read More

Shane Powell

Surrey. I grew up in rural northwestern Ontario and only recently moved to the BC coast. It amazes me how there can be so much more good, healthy food on the store shelves and yet people are still blocked from accessing it because of social status. My wife and I intentionally moved into a lower income part of the city because we want our lives to make a difference in our community. We try to be involved with our neighbours, welcoming new families and working with volunteer groups to help those less… Read More

Leila Geggie Hurst

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Victoria – I am a law student at the University of Victoria and a member of the 2016 Pivot Legal Welfare Food Challenge Team. I have worked as an advocate for persons navigating the provincial Income Assistance program and witnessed how BC’s shamefully low welfare rates contribute to the ongoing oppression of marginalized, vulnerable people. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that all British Columbians are supported to live with health and dignity. Raising welfare rates to a livable level would substantially improve the safety, freedom and well-being of many of… Read More

Lauryn Garrett

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I am from Winnipeg, MB but recently moved to Vancouver, BC to pursue graduate studies at Simon Fraser University. I’m currently in the Master’s of Public Health program, within the Global Health Stream. As you can imagine, we often discuss the social determinants of health in our seminars, including socioeconomic status and food insecurity. I have been involved in volunteer work both abroad and domestically, recently I’ve had the opportunity to spend some of my time working in a homeless shelter in my hometown. The reality of the struggles of living on… Read More

Darcie Bennett

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Vancouver – I work with Pivot Legal Society and am a member of the 2016 Pivot Legal Welfare Food Challenge Team. I joined the Pivot team as a researcher in 2006, and since then, I have held several positions including child welfare campaigner, coordinator of the Jane Doe Legal Network, and campaigns director. I also hold a PhD in sociology from the University of British Columbia. In 1996, when I was 19, I spent some time on income assistance after my son was born. Those months were some of the hardest of… Read More

Caitlin Shane

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Vancouver – I am an articling student with Pivot Legal Society and a member of the 2016 Pivot Legal Welfare Food Challenge Team. Before joining Pivot, I worked for several years in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside as a Mental Health Worker. I also worked in the DTES Central Kitchen and helped run a food program in the same neighborhood. Through these experiences, it has become more than apparent to me that the current rates of income assistance are unlivable. Food is so much a part of our lives: not only in the obvious,… Read More

Brenda Belak

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Vancouver – I’m the sex work campaign lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society and a member of the 2016 Pivot Legal Welfare Food Challenge Team. For most of my adult life, I’ve done human rights advocacy. I’ve also lived around and worked with people who were poor – in refugee camps in Thailand, in various parts of east Vancouver, and in First Nations communities throughout the province. I’ve seen grinding poverty throughout Southeast Asia, where government income assistance programs are often negligible. I’ve also seen that it’s sometimes easier to house yourself… Read More

Paula Macfarlane

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North Vancouver – By day I work as a business consultant at Vancity and by night I am a wife, mother of two, graduate student (Cooperative Management) and amateur sourdough bread maker. I’m lucky to be married to an avid gardener who grows our family healthy and delicious vegetables year-round. I’m doing the challenge because access to nutritious food is important to my family’s and my well-being – physically, mentally and emotionally – and I want to raise awareness that accessing such food on $18 a week is extremely challenging, if not,… Read More

Kristin Bower

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Maple Ridge – This is my first year participating in the Welfare Food Challenge. I am doing it because it is not OK to me that in Canada in 2016 we have people living in poverty. To have to make a choice between paying rent and buying food for yourself is not a choice that anyone should have to make. In BC approximately 9.9% of our population live in poverty. We are the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction strategy. We need to change that. I am nervous about the… Read More

Michelle Parry

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Vancouver – I was invited to participate in this challenge by a friend and accepted because I think its an incredible way to actually begin to understand what it’s like to live on welfare. I finished my undergrad in social anthropology, love traveling, and come from a pretty well off family. Intellectually I know how hard to survive on the current welfare but understanding something on a visceral level is different. I think this is a great chance to draw attention to the issue as well as challenge and educate myself. I… Read More

Emily-Anne King

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Vancouver – I am a Vancouver native who is passionate about hunger. In 2012 my mother and I founded a program (now a registered charity) called Backpack Buddies. Backpacks Buddies aims to address the weekend hunger gap faced by children in our communities who rely on school meal programs Monday–Friday. We currently provide 1010 children a month with Backpacks full of food to eat for the weekend. We have seen poverty first hand, and I have decided to participate in the Welfare Challenge to stand with and for the people we support. I… Read More

Deborah Sim

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North Vancouver – With over fifteen years of parental caregiving and palliative care experience Deborah is participating in the Welfare Food Challenge on behalf of B.C. seniors. According to the United Way, by 2036 Metro Vancouver’s population of people 65 and older is expected to more than double. More than one in four of us will be a senior – how many seniors will be living below the poverty line and how will they cope? I will blog about the challenges seniors face struggling on a food budget of $18 a week… Read More

Chantal Denis

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Vancouver – I am a professional and volunteer chef who has called Vancouver home for the last year. I am taking the Welfare Challenge to help raise awareness about the flaws in our system, a system that leaves millions of Canadians food insecure and trapped in the cycle of poverty. We are all entitled to dignity and I know that through the Challenge, it will become very obvious just how undignified life is for someone trying to live off of grossly inadequate welfare rates. I am a chef who specializes in “affordable”… Read More

Bunny Horne

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Port Coquitlam. I participated in 2015 and wrongly assumed the BC Government would address this matter so this Challenge would not become an annual event. A year later I am participating for a second time, but things have changed – the increasing cost of living now means a budget for food of $18, down $3. I made every effort to plan a healthy menu for the week in 2015 and was shocked to discover that $21 didn’t stretch very far. I shopped locally; stores within walking distance of my home; keeping in… Read More

Alli Massie

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Vancouver – I am a PhD student, working on issues surrounding the environment and the oil and gas industry. I am taking the Welfare Challenge as I want to have a better, and deeper, appreciation for the ways in which so many people – in Canada and across the globe – struggle to have the things I take for granted. Living in a great city like Vancouver, finding great food isn’t hard. Finding food for 18$ … that’s something I can’t imagine, even as a single young person. Add in other challenges, and… Read More