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

BCSS grads come home to celebrate 50 years

*Hairstyles and outfits may have changed since graduation

Boundary District Arts Council folds amid financial questions

The last board took over in November and could not find receipts for $8,000 in spending

Residents push Grand Forks council to support with flood buyouts

Staff estimate a $6.6 million difference between pre and post-flood value for Grand Forks buyouts

MP warns of scam after catching Facebook Messenger imposter account

Wayne Stetski issues warning about an imposter messenger account that is using his profile photo

Grand Forks mulls in-kind options to support flood buyout residents

$6.6 million difference between pre and post-flood value for Grand Forks buyouts

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

UPDATE: West Kelowna fawn euthanized, not claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer has been euthanized after a suitable home was not found in time

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

B.C. man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas

Clock’s ticking to share how you feel about Daylight Saving Time in B.C.

Provincial public survey ends at 4 p.m. on Friday

Most Read