A group of dieticians and nutritionists were among the people who took Raise the Rates’ 2nd Annual Welfare Food Challenge. In spite of all their training and skills, none of them could work out a healthy and filling diet for a week with only $26 to spend. The Challenge is to voluntarily live only on the food a person can purchase with $26, which is the money a single able-bodied person on welfare has for food – every week. It is impossible to stay healthy on welfare.
The people who took the Challenge were almost constantly hungry, many lost weight, suffered from a lack of nutrients, felt tired, stressed and irritable, and not as able to focus as usual. All of this after just one week of eating on a welfare diet. Yet people on welfare have to do this week after week.
As well as the physical problems of eating on a welfare diet, there were social impacts. Food is important to human relations and culture, and a source of pleasure. The Challenge takers thought about food most of the time, but even when they ate, it was not a joy. Their social life suffered since they couldn’t meet people for a coffee or to share food. Poverty can increase social isolation, which is detrimental to mental health and finding a job.
Keeping people on welfare in such poverty actually makes it harder for them to get a job. They spend a lot of time just to get food, and are not in the best of emotional and mental states. Think of the impossible choice for someone who has a job interview near the end of the welfare month when money has run out. Do they try to get some food to eat so they are alert or get a haircut before the interview?
There is a moral saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Clearly BC’s politicians do not follow this advice, as none of them were willing to live on the welfare diet even for one week. Yet they do make the 180,000 people on welfare live in poverty.
Check out the Welfare Food Challenge website to find out more: http://welfarefoodchallenge.org/
The Challenge is part of Raise the Rates’ campaign to push the provincial government to raise welfare and tackle poverty in BC.