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

Penticton gallery searching for young budding artists

A Penticton gallery is putting a call out for young artists for their next exhibition

A campaign encourages families to put down their phones and talk this Mother’s Day

OpenTable’s #DiningMode gets Okanagan restaurants on board with a no phone policy while dining

Okanagan experience for the Blue Man Group

The world tour of the Blue Man Group came to Penticton this week for two shows.

Olympian Andi Naude retires from freestyle skiing

Penticton native skied in 62 World Cup single and dual moguls events in her career

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

Canfor temporarily shutting down lumber mills across B.C.

Low lumber prices and the high cost of fibre are the cause of curtailment, according to the company

Okanagan physician and family reflect passion for medicine with hospital gift

Dr. Paul Cobbin and family donate to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation’s campaign

Two in critical condition, several still in hospital after Langley deck collapse

Close relative Satwant Garcha makes daily trips to visit those injured at the wedding

Kelowna man speaks up for limb loss awareness after losing leg

Ralph Zaiser is getting used to life as a recent amputee

Canadian privacy watchdogs find major shortcomings in Facebook probe

The probe followed reports that Facebook had let an outside organization use an app to access users’ personal info

Allegedly intoxicated man arrested after 3 paramedics attacked at Kamloops hospital

Paramedics had transported the man to Royal Inlands Hospital for medical treatment

Most Read