Sep 13, 2016

The fifth annual Welfare Food Challenge is coming up

Photo by Pete Tuepah and Nadene Rehnby

The 2016 Welfare Food Challenge—in which participants spend one week eating only what can be purchased with the money a welfare recipient receives—is coming up on October 16th.

The organization behind the challenge, Raise the Rates, calculates the amount participants have to spend on food based on the expectation that welfare recipients will have to pay for rental housing, a cell phone (necessary to look for work and contact the welfare office) and personal hygiene (but not transit, clothing, haircuts or social activities). Once you subtract those necessary costs from the $610 per month that a single person on welfare receives, you’re left with only $18 per week to spend on food.

Why so low? For one thing, the amount received by welfare recipients has not increased for nine years. It hasn’t kept up with inflation—the value of a welfare cheque has lost about 10% since 2007—and it certainly hasn’t kept up with the rising cost of rent (which has increased even for single room occupancy in the Downtown Eastside).

I took the Welfare Food Challenge back in 2013 (when the food allowance was a bit higher, $26 per week), and found it stressful, unhealthy and filled with small but regular indignities. You can learn more by reading my blog posts (links here), or by watching my Day 1 interview:

As the 2017 provincial election approaches, it’s more important than ever that we raise public awareness about the inadequacy of welfare rates and make poverty an election issue. Learn more by visiting