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Can you live on $26 a week? The Welfare Food Challenge Begins Today

After all other costs are accounted for a Vancouverite on welfare has $26 for groceries to last an entire week. In the most expensive city in Canada this isn’t enough, and has lead to other problems relating to health and poor nutrition and contributes to cycles of poverty.

Hastings Crossing BIA Executive Director, Wes Regan, is one of several Vancouverites taking the Welfare Food Challenge. Below is his first post reflecting on the competition and some of the themes he will explore in the days ahead. Stay tuned for further updates.

I’m privileged. I’m not one of the 1%, I’m not even a “homeowner” for that matter, one of those important distinctions we feel compelled to make when identifying one another, but when it comes to the overall lived experience of most in our city and our country I live a very privileged life.

I often question where my next meal will come from, but only because I have an abundance of options.

I feel anxiety or stress like anyone, but more often than not it’s because of a deadline I have approaching or because I have a particularly busy week or day at work. It always dissipates, and then I enjoy a range of different ways of unwinding. A round of golf, a hike into the hills, a long ride on my bike, a nice glass of wine, maybe even a cigar. I can enjoy a movie at home with my wife, or I can have friends over for dinner. I can go on the occasional weekend getaway or vacation. I’m not a particularly materialistic person by normal standards but all of my leisure, all of my comfort, all of my opportunity is rooted in the privilege of being an educated, employed, happily married, white, male, thirty-something in Vancouver from a stable middle class family.

There were times early on when I moved to Vancouver that I had a tough time making ends meet. I was even briefly homeless, and for a time on welfare. Even then I had a strong support network of friends and family to help me through, and plenty of opportunities came my way because of that. Even then I can’t remember having to try and live off of $26 a week for all my groceries. But for far too many in Vancouver that’s reality.

This week, to raise awareness of just how inadequate welfare rates are for those living in the most expensive city in Canada, I’m going to try and do just that.

Raise the Rates has once again thrown down the gauntlet and challenged all of us to take part in the Welfare Food Challenge from October 16th to the 22nd. I humbly accept the challenge and hope that you’ll check in for updates as I reflect on privilege, poverty, nutrition and other related things, trying to live on the woefully meager budget that far too many are forced to subsist on in our city. In the end I hope we can all begin to empathize more with our friends and neighbours, who deserve better. Welfare supports that are below subsistence levels contribute to the poverty trap. By raising the rates we are aiding our friends and neighbours to participate more fully in the local economy and break their cycles of poverty.

Doing it along with me are:
·      Anna Cavouras, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House
·      Jenna Drabble, Graduate student
·      Rev. Margaret Marquardt, St. Thomas Anglican Church
·      Samuel Mickelson, Gordon neighbourhood House
·      Sarah Carten, Community Nutritionists
·      Sunni Hunt, Vancouver Native Health Society

Today we’ll be meeting at Buy-Low Foods on Kingsway and Broadway at 12:30 PM to officially launch the challenge. It’s appropriate, being as it is World Food Day. Stay tuned for more info and please visit http://raisetherates.org/ while you’re at it. Follow us at @hxbia and @RaiseTheRates


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