Hungry for a Welfare Raise

Raise the Rates is inviting the people of British Columbia to spend a week living only on the food they can buy for $26. This is the amount of money a single, able-bodied person on welfare has for food.

Victoria Bull acknowledged that we were on Coast Salish Territory. She explained how, as grandmother on disability raising her granddaughter, “it is always hard to manage; there is no extra money so that the slightest emergency becomes a disaster. Schools are forced to run meal programs so that the kids have enough food to be able to learn. This is a cost of poverty that our children and our schools pay.”

“Last year I took the Welfare Food Challenge and ran out of food”, said Paul Taylor, the ED of Gordon Neighbourhood House, as he welcomed everyone to the announcement of this year’s Challenge. “Charity is needed now as people are hungry, but what we really need is systematic change so that people have enough healthy food. It is fitting that the Challenge starts on October 16th, which is World Food Day.”

“I have researched poverty and the inadequacies of welfare; I have advocated for better welfare rates but I have never lived on welfare. So this one week of eating on $26 will shine a light on the reality,” stated Seth Klein, Director of Centre for Policy Alternatives BC. He pointed out that “there hasn’t been a raise since 2007, so people on welfare have suffered a 10% cut in their living standards. The increases in Hydro charges will add to fuel poverty.”

“I live on $610 a month and it is impossible. The money runs out in less than 2 weeks. Even prices in the Dollar Store are now $1.25, so they have gone up,” stated Fraser Stuart a community activist. “There are 4 months a year that have 5 weeks between payments which are even worse. The system is insanity. We are forced to spend hours looking for free food and standing in line-ups, just to survive.”

Sarah Carten, a dietitian, stated, “I know many people grow up facing hunger; I was fortune not to. I know one week is not the same as for many months or years, but already I am worrying about how will I survive. I am thinking of everything that I will go with out. I hope it will help me and other people to better understand the shame that in BC so many people live with food scarcity.”

“Both my daughter and I have special dietary needs and being on welfare we are not always able to get what we need which makes us ill,” said Colleen Boudreau, a single mother on disability. “In Alberta a person on disability gets $1,588, which is nearly twice the $910 we get in BC. Even my daughter knows no one can eat on $26 a week. I’m appalled that the government doesn’t know that.”

“I love food and I’m aware how hard this will be. I know I will lack energy and focus to do what I need to do,” stated Sam Mickelson, who works at Gordon Neighbourhood House. “This is only for one week; many people have to live week after week with a lack of food and no choice about what they eat. There is a huge social injustice in forcing people to live like this.”

Laura Hill, on the board of Gordon House explained that “When I told people about this they were shocked that welfare rates are so low. Most people do not know that welfare is only $610 a month. When they find out, they are disgusted that this exists in such a rich province. Welfare rates are totally out of touch with the reality of what it cost to live.”

“We know that most people in BC want an end to poverty and real increase in welfare. In an opinion poll 75% said that welfare should be raised to cover the real cost of food and shelter,” said Bill Hopwood of Raise the Rates. “BC can afford to end poverty. We can give $3 billion a year to the rich in tax cuts or to build a new bridge; about what it would cost to end poverty. But there is not the political will to tackle poverty which harms many people’s lives and actually costs the people of BC at least $4 billion a year not to fix it.”

At least 11% of the population, and over 15% of children, in BC are food insecure. (Household Food Insecurity in Canada, 2011)

Contact Raise the Rates:
• Bill Hopwood: 604 738-1653, 778 686-5293 (cell) bill50@vcn.bc.ca
• Websites: www.raisetherates.org; http://welfarefoodchallenge.org/;
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/635990433089949

Where Welfare Money Goes
The BC government provides $610 a month in welfare to an able bodied single person who has to prove they are looking for work.
Total Welfare 610
Rent (Realistic cost of an SRO) – 425 = 185
Damage deposit – 20 = 165
Book of 10 bus tickets (Need to look for work) – 21 = 144
Cheap Cell phone (Need to look for work) – 25 = 119
Personal hygiene, laundry, etc – 10 = 109
Left for food 109
$109/m * 12 months = $1308 a year
$1308/a year / 365 days = $3.58 a day
$3.58 a day * 7 days = $25.09, rounded up to $26
No money for clothes, a coffee, haircuts, or any social life or treats.