Food at the market generally too expensive for annual Welfare Food Challenge (Maxpexel photo) Food at the market generally too expensive for annual Welfare Food Challenge (Maxpexel photo)

Welfare Food Challenge cancelled as rent rates leave $5.75 per week for food

With increasing rent on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, welfare rates would leave less than $6 a week for participants in the advocacy challenge

The rental market in Metro Vancouver has caused such expensive rates for the most vulnerable that organizers behind the annual Welfare Food Challenge have been forced to cancel it this year.

The reason: It’s nearly impossible to live off less than $6 a week.

The challenge, which started back in 2013 by Raise the Rates, involves participants trying to eat off welfare rates to raise awareness of the extreme difficulties British Columbians living in poverty face day-to-day.

Participants were given $19 a week last year, but since then average rent costs for single room occupancy (SRO) units in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside have increased by about $100, which takes a larger chunk of the $710 someone on income assistance receives each month.

Once personal hygiene, phone and bus fare are calculated in, only about $23 a month, or $5.75 per week, is left to spend on food.

$5.75 is what participants in the Welfare Food Challenge would have left to spend on food after basic costs. (Kristi Patton/Black Press Media)

“It is inhumane, cruel and appalling,” Kell Gerling, one of the event organizers, said during a news conference earlier this month.

To announce the challenge each year, Gerling and the other organizers also launch a cookbook with recipes that can be made by those facing such a tight budget. But this year, the book is empty.

“SRO’s are supposed to be where people on welfare are able to find affordable housing, but mostly the conditions in SRO’s are absolutely despicable and still they are paying $687 for rent,” she said.

In 2017, B.C.’s NDP government increased welfare by $100 a month – the first increase in nearly a decade.

But Gerling said the problem stems from the rent being tied to the unit and not the tenant, meaning that landlords were able to increase rates after seeing the boost to welfare.

“So this year, we can’t possibly ask somebody to voluntarily live off $5.75 in a week total for food,” Gerling said.

In September, as part of their 30-point housing plan, the province announced a 2.5 per cent rental increase cap in 2019.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

West Fraser to reduce sawmill production in Quesnel, Fraser Lake

The move will affect 75 employees in Quesnel, 60 in Fraser Lake

Column: the 4-H way of life

Local 4-H member Jacinta Meir on what being a member means to her

Local soccer player Sydney Kelly receives prestigious Premier’s Award

The 18-year-old trained with UNBC’s soccer team while in high school

2018 marks 100 years since the end of World War I

Quesnel legion’s historian Doug Carey documents some of the atrocities of WWI

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

Throw a snowball to help kids at BC Children’s Hospital

Effort will raise money for sick kids over the holidays

Want to buy your first home? Move to Kamloops or Prince George

Kamloops, Prince George, Campbell River and Langford are the only other markets in the study without gaps between required and actual income in owning a home.

Seniors in care homes may not get referendum ballots in the mail: Seniors Advocate

Voters list was established in May 2017, so if they moved into a care home since then….

Feds give $2 million for anti-extremism programs in B.C.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said supporting efforts locally is key to prevention

Should the legal age for cannabis be increased to 21?

B.C. residents have a more mellow attitude to the age limit for pot – but 23 per cent want the legal age increased

Expect ride hailing in B.C. by 2020, Premier Horgan says

Taxi-style insurance option needed for part-time drivers

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

Canada Post strike having ‘critical’ impact on retailers, eBay tells PM

Canada Post says it is now facing an unprecedented backlog of shipments, largely as a result of strikes

NASA wants Canadian boots on the moon as first step in deep space exploration

The U.S. is seeking broad international support for the next-generation space station to send into orbit a in 2021

Most Read