Thank you to the hundreds that participated in this weeks #welfarefoodchallenge. My colleague, Spencer Chandra Herbert and I set out on the Welfare Food Challenge to better understand what 185000 British Columbians have to live on every week. $18 for a WEEK for food, beverages, snacks, everything!
What we learned:
1. Obviously it’s not enough, and the rates need to be raised. Poor nutrition leads to poor health, and that costs everyone.
2. If you have good affordable housing that can help- more resources need to be dedicated to low income supportive housing. Some folks are spending their entire food budgets just trying to keep a roof over their heads. There is very little housing available that folks can afford, and the options that are available often don’t have kitchens, or proper places to store/cook food.
3. You can’t fix a problem unless you name it. BC needs a Poverty Reduction Plan now. In a Province as rich as ours we shouldn’t be known for having one of the highest child poverty rates in the country. 1/5 children live in poverty in BC! That means going to school and bed hungry.
4. There are many working poor folks who aren’t on social assistance but are also really struggling to survive on minimum wage. Relying on the food bank to get by. We need to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour so these people can eat, and live a better life.
5. Affordable childcare is a part of a rodust poverty reduction plan. Its good for kids, parents and the economy and addresses inequality.
After doing this challenge I (we, Spencer Chandra Herbert) am more committed than ever to fighting for equality, for social justice, and to better the lives of the most marginalized in our province. As an MLA and as a citizen I will work with my community and colleagues to fight for change! Our current provincial government has been deadset against change, but we have had some victories. My colleague MLA Michelle Mungall, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, and many others fought to end the child support clawback which was harming single parents with kids, and won! We will keep fighting, dreaming, and working for a more just and better world.
Melanie Mark, MLA
Vancouver Mount Pleasant
Here is a snapshot of my week:
Day one of the Welfare Food Challenge. My colleague Spencer Chandra Herbert and I are participating to gain a better understanding about what it’s like to be on social assistance/as a person with a disability living on a $18 a WEEK food budget. I haven’t eaten all day. I had a free coffee at harbour air. This is what $18 looks like. Breakfast lunch and dinner tonight means one hard boiled egg and peanut butter toast.
Day two: Breakfast- LIFE cereal. All items I bought yesterday, on sale. No fruit. No veggies. Tempted to go to Denny’s for free bday meal- but know it’s against the rules.
Day 2 #welfarefoodchallenge. Birthday dinner peanut butter toast. People ask how it’s going so far. I feel hungry and less energetic to do the important work that passes thru my office. #empathy #fight4change
Day three of the #welfarefoodchallenge. Brunch= one cup of tea, bowl of cereal, piece of bread with peanut butter. Dinner= chicken noodle soup + two hard boiled eggs. I pledged to take this challenge as a member of the legislative assembly to raise awareness about how hard pressed people on income assistance and disability are throughout our province. Surviving on $18 per
Day four of the #welfarefoodchallenge. Cup of tea. Brunch= two pieces of peanut butter bread. Dinner = Mac n Cheese. Feeling low energy/ lethargic. 1/5 children in this province live in poverty. That is not ok. Five times the BC Liberals mocked the BC NDPfor proposing a poverty reduction plan. Many of my friends who work the front line, at inner city schools, up north…tell me the heart breaking stories about children going to school and or bed hungry. #fight4rights #nolaughingmatter
Day 5 of the #welfarefoodchallenge. Breakfast two pieces of peanut butter bread. Lunch plain toast with hard boiled eggs. Dinner chicken noodle soup. I didn’t choose to be raised in poverty, growing up in the Skeena projects/throughout east Van with a single mom. Visited food banks while I got my degree at Simon Fraser University raising my daughter Maya. On February 2 the people chose me to be their advocate for change in the Legislature. Have empathy. Taking part in the challenge to raise our collective consciousness for people living on $18 a week for food.#passion4action
Day 7- cup of tea, 2 hard boiled eggs and 2 pieces of dry toast for lunch. Chicken noodle soup for dinner.