Let’s be honest: we all want to do some good, right? Everyone wants to make an impact somehow. But when we are looking at making that difference, how uncomfortable are we actually willing to get?
Over the last few years, I’ve watched multiple friends participate in the Welfare Food Challenge. Once a year, they signed up and promised to spend only the amount of money that welfare recipients would have leftover for food (after paying for shelter and other necessities) on their own food for seven straight days. This year, that amount works out to $2.58 per day (a grand total of only $18 a week for food).
|Rent (realistic cost of an SRO)*||$479|
|Bus tickets (to look for work) – will have to walk everywhere||$0|
|Cell phone (to look for work)||$25|
|What’s left for food||$76|
|*SRO = Single Room Occupancy, i.e. the cheapest accommodation in Vancouver.|
|Cost breakdown courtesy of WelfareFoodChallenge.org.|
Watching my friends participate each year has taught me many things; most notably, how significantly the absence of proper nutrition has affected them both mentally and physically after only just a few days.
So why should you participate in the 2016 Welfare Food Challenge?
1) Because standard Social Assistance rates have not gone up one cent in B.C. since 2007.
Think about how expensive Vancouver is. Now consider how much renting a home cost in 2007. Any chance it is the same price as it was nine years ago? Not likely! Same question applies for costs of food, damage deposit, public transit etc.
2) To be truly aware of one’s privilege, it is important to be aware of what it is like to live ‘without’.
Vancouver-based musician Bif Naked has done the Challenge multiple times, and is extremely passionate about the cause. She thinks you should be too. “It’s important for everybody to try the Welfare Food Challenge,” she explains, “because it will really shift the public’s perception of poverty and food insecurity. If every person had to buy only what about three bucks would feed them each day, their entire frame of understanding would shift. They would be outraged at the injustice! Experience leads to understanding. Understanding leads to change.”
3) To share your experience with others.
Bill Hopwood, organizer of Raise The Rates and the Welfare Food Challenge, deeply believes that every single participant can make a significant difference. “We know that poverty kills people. The average life expectancy of a poor person is ten years shorter than the statistical average. How can YOU as an individual with no particular power have an impact on that? By doing this [Challenge], by blogging about it or talking about it with your workmates, you’ll have a profound impact on other people.”
So this year, I’m taking part and I welcome you to join me. Beginning Sunday October 16th, I’ll be sharing what changes I’m noticing both physically and mentally on Twitter and Instagram as the week unfolds. At the end of this challenge, I’ll also post a brutally honest account about how this week affected my brain and body on this blog.
Starting Sunday, October 16th, let’s take part in the Welfare Food Challenge together, utilizing their official hashtags #WelfareFoodChallenge and #RaiseTheRates so we can share our experiences and learnings with each other.