Raise the Rates Welfare Food Challenge – Day 2

It is very uncomfortable to go hungry. After one day, I am feeling lethargy seeping in.  I have hunger pangs and my stomach has been growling like a angry bear. I do not feel like doing much. I just wanted to stay in bed.

Started the morning with a cup of tea, a tablespoon of butter and equal amount of coconut milk to give me a bit of fat energy. It is about a quarter as much fat as I would normally eat, and is not enough to keep my energy levels up. Then I ate lentils and rice with a bit of broccoli and two eggs shown in the photo below. It may look like alot and yes it is as healthy as I can make it, but I only have enough food for one large meal a day and then a second much smaller portion to fend of the hunger pangs later in the evening. Two days in and I am counting down the days until I can turn to a normal healthy diet. This is my privilege


I feel I live a comfortable life. I don’t make a huge amount of money but I live simply. No car, no expensive travel, I live in a co-op and so on. But I do spend alot of money on food – good quality organic food. In part because I have health issues that are very much affected by diet. If I eat badly, I feel crappy. My food bill per month ranges from as low as $208 (rarely this low) to as high as $726 a month. Mostly it averages over $500/month, which means that I sometimes spend as much as a person on income assistance gets for all their expenses – $710 for rent, food, bus, phone, everything. And I do not think my diet is unreasonable. It is simply a healthy, nutritious diet that we all deserve. The problem is that food is getting very expensive, especially good food.

I was just talking to a friend yesterday who is on income assistance and waiting to get on disability. She has been near homeless, staying with friends, couch surfing for several months lately. Her last place lasted only two weeks at which time the upstairs tenant and manager of the house sexually assaulted her. No witnesses, no charges, so of course she left and was once again at the mercy of friends and looking for another place to rent. She finally found a shared apt last week, after much looking, for $750/month in Marpole, which she likes and has a good roommate. She told me that it was pretty much the cheapest place she could find, but since she is only getting $710 Income Assistance, she is very much dependent on the generosity of friends to give her extra money. But at the same time she actually feels lucky to have this apartment.

Raise the Rates Welfare Food Challenge – Day 1

Today I will be starting the Raise the Rates BC Welfare Food Challenge. I am feeling very nervous about the week ahead and I am fully expecting to feel like crap. I know this because I took the challenge last year and quickly fatigued by mid week. Not good when I also needed to work. But, I managed to get through the week on beans and rice, focusing on carbs to keep the energy going. Carbs are cheap but not the high nutrient, quality fats, and protein that we all need to stay healthy. Truth is I don’t want to do this, but I also know that it is important to raise awareness of the dreadful income assistance rates for people who are unable to work. 

The income assistance rates are a miserable $710/month, while considerably more than the previous year, after rent (calculated at $548 or the realistic cost of an SRO) and a few other necessities like a bus pass and phone hook up, it works out to only $76/month or $19/week left for food. No one can feed themselves on $19/week, and so are dependent on the charitable food sector, e.g. food banks. This is a malnutrition diet. It is criminal. This needs to change. Do we have no heart left.

The picture below is what I will be eating for the week. My strategy to get through the week is to eat mostly lentils and rice that I hope will fill me up so I avoid the terrible feeling of hunger. Where I can, I will squeeze in a couple eggs or less a day, some butter and coconut milk, also to give me a little protein and important fat that we need. I will also add in a few vegetables like broccoli and celery (will buy more later in the week).  My worry is if I will get enough protein and fats, but I am pretty certain that I will not. My usual diet would include alot more veggies, fish, nuts and seeds and lots more healthy fats like olives, avocados, coconut cream. I am just afraid of getting sick.

I already struggle with a chronic inflammatory condition and low grade chronic pain on a daily basis, mostly joint pain, so I am very careful about my health and diet in particular. My hope is one week will not do any lasting damage…….So, I am lucky in this regard. I can stop after a week, which is not the case for many others who do not have the privilege that I have to eat as well as I do.

In my work as a community food developer with the Grandview Woodland Food Connection, I develop food programs and help support community members who are struggling to access healthy and affordable food.  In my work, I am also aware that people who experience food insecurity also experience much poorer health. In a recent evaluation of our Bulk Food Buy program, 63% of participants reported preexisting or other health problems. And for many, poor diets exacerbate their health problems.

After 10 years of working in this field, I am seeing on-going and persistent food insecurity in our community, with roughly 1 in 5 residents reporting some degree of food insecurity or lack of access to good food….Nothing is changing, and though community food programs can lesson the hardship and support some systems change (like creating alternative more cooperative healthy food purchasing based on equitable exchange), we still really need campaigns like the Welfare Food Challenge to help raise awareness of this issue.

Ian Marcuse

Raise the Rates 6th Annual Welfare Food Challenge

This is an invitation to join the Grandview Woodland Food Connection and Raise the Rates’ Annual Welfare Food Challenge in November 2017. The Challenge is for one week, eating only what can be purchased with the money a welfare recipient receives.

The Challenge highlights the inadequacy of welfare rates in BC. Even with the $100/month raise implemented by the new BC government, this amount is not enough. A single person receives only $710/month, which provides only $19/week for food. With the rising cost of rent, lack of rent control, exorbitant cost of living in the city, this is only $1 more per week than the Challenge in 2016. Raise the Rates, and the Grandview Woodland Food Connection are working to raise public awareness of the extreme poverty of people on welfare; and how there needs to be more action and commitment to see rates raised so people on welfare can live with dignity.

The Challenge will start on Wednesday November 1st and run for a full 7 days. Participants will be expected to live on only the food they can purchase with $19 dollars.  This calculation is based on the expectation that welfare recipients will have to pay rent and damage deposit, bus tickets and cell phone (necessary to look for work and contact the welfare office) and personal hygiene. Out of $710 there is still very little money left for food.

To help publicize the Challenge, we are inviting you to join with the Grandview Woodland Food Connection and together we hope to document and publicize our experiences. This could include:

  • Writing blog posts for our website and the Vancouver Neighborhood Food Networks website
  • Posting directly to your own social media and sharing on our Facebook site.
  • Sharing your experiences with your friends, family, community members, and policy makers

For more information about the Welfare Food Challenge visit: http://welfarefoodchallenge.org/. or http://vancouverfoodnetworks.com/welfarefoodchallenge/ Thank you for considering taking the Welfare Food Challenge. Your contribution to raising awareness and creating policy change is important. If you have any questions or would like to participate, please contact Ian Marcuse at gwfcnetwork@gmail.com or 604-718-5895.



Wild Salmon Caravan Vancouver Parade – Murray Bush Photos

Another spectacular Wild Salmon Caravan Mardi Gras style parade with drumming, regalia, costumes, floats, signs, banners and more, which all express in celebration our love for and deep concern to protect Wild Salmon. Led by the Salish Matriarchs, the parade started at the Native Friendship Centre and walked up Commercial Drive to Trout lake where a salmon ceremony was held at the lake then followed by an amazing salmon feast, speakers, and performances.

This Rainbow Parade in Vancouver launches the Wild Salmon Caravan and its third annual journey which will follow the wild salmon from the Salish Seas to Secwepemcul’ecw territory, stoping at several communities along the way. The Caravan will be led this year by Salish matriarchs from Indigenous communities all along the route from Vancouver to the Adams River.

The Oct. 7-12 Caravan will honour and celebrate the spirit of wild salmon with festive parades, ceremonies, traditional feasts and music in Coastal and Interior Salish communities including Vancouver, Chilliwack, Merritt, Kamloops and Chase.

The Grandview Woodland Food Connection is an organizing partner and honored to be a part of this event, recognizing that salmon are a critical food justice issue, in particular, for its importance to Indigenous people and a whole host of other species that depend on salmon for their survival. Supporting the protection of wild salmon is an important reconciliation action towards ensuring a stronger Indigenous land and food system. To this end, we must step up our support for and with Indigenous peoples in their struggle to save the salmon, including working towards an end to open pen fish farms, overfishing, oil pipelines, and a host of other environmental threats to salmon.

Check out these beautiful photos by Murray Bush. For more photos visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gwfc/albums/72157661282546378


Britannia School Garden Program Kicks Off

Britannia School gardening kicks off another school garden year with a seed saving workshop. Also had fun digging up potatoes and harvesting other food that one class made into a large veggie stew. This year we are working with three classes (Outreach Alternate, Streetfront Alternate, and Bio 11) and about 60 students. Big thanks to recent funding from Seeds of Change Canada and Evergreen that is helping to support our garden program.

Britannia Sukkot Festival

Join us for an intercultural feast to celebrate our appreciation for the harvest, community connections, and the Coast Salish land we call home at the innaugural Britannia Sukkot Festival.

Sukkot is the Jewish harvest festival, held each autumn to celebrate the bounty of nature and the giving of the Torah by God to the Jewish people. To commemorate this holiday, Jewish families build temporary outdoor shelters (Sukkahs), where they dine with family and friends each evening for a week. These temporary shelters remind us of the impermanence of our possessions and harken back to the 40 years the Jewish people wandered through the desert following their emancipation from slavery in Egypt.

Sukkot expresses universal themes of harvest celebration, cultural identity, human vulnerability, and community. The Britannia Sukkot Festival will bring together diverse community members to feast and share in both a Jewish Sukkot and Coast Salish led ceremonies as part of the city wide Sustenance Festival 2017.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017, 
5-8 pm Britannia Community Centre šxʷqʷeləwən ct Carving Centre (dress warm)
1001 Cotton Drive, Vancouver 
Vegetarian Dinner by Donation
Advanced registration necessary; space is limited.
reserve a spot at: jewishmuseum.ca/sukkot/
or contact: 604.257.5199 or 604.718.5895
Programming will feature:
Eyepiece by FSOARK, the winner of the 2017 JMABC / GWFC Sukkah Design Competition.
Coast Salish Welcome and Blessing Ceremony by Senaqwila Wyss
Sukkot Blessings by Rabbi Hannah Dresner
Vegetarian Dinner by Tayybeh: A Celebration of Syrian Cuisine

Presented by the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC, Grandview Woodland Food Connection, Britannia Community Centre, and Or Shalom.