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

Protected bighorn sheep killed near Spences Bridge

The sheep are considered a species of concern because of their low population in B.C.

Learn how to Restart a Heart and possibly save a life

Community paramedica teach how to perform CPR and use AEDs

Local News Briefs: Recycling info sessions coming soon

Plus news about the Santa Claus parade, a Christmas sale, giving pests the cold shoulder, and more.

Speed limits reduced on 570km of B.C. highways

Highway 1 from Savona to Tobiano among sections that have seen the speed limit decreased

The Rundown: Clinton News

Get your tickets now for the David Stoddart School PAC Dinner and Auction on Nov. 17.

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

Controversy erupts over Japanese flag in B.C. classroom

Online petition demanding removal has collected more than 5,700 signatures

Death toll rises to 76 in California fire with winds ahead

Nearly 1,300 people remain unaccounted for more than a week after the fire began

Trump says report on Khashoggi death expected in a few days

Jamal Khashoggi was a columnist for The Washington Post who was slain Oct. 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul

CUPW requests mediator as deadline for Canada Post offer expires without deal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in Saturday night with a last-minute plea to the two sides

Trudeau says he won’t negotiate in public on future of LGBTQ rights in USMCA

Legislators urged Trump not to sign the agreement unless the language was removed.

Price makes 36 saves as Habs edge Canucks 3-2

Late goal lifts Montreal past Vancouver

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Most Read