VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The 5th annual Welfare Food Challenge came to a close today at city hall with a panel discussion, featuring challenge participants and actual welfare recipients.
The challenge is meant to reflect the reality faced by those who live in poverty. Participants could spend just $18 on food across seven days, which is meant to reflect how much money some on welfare has left over after rent, hygiene, and phone costs.
“I was able to buy oatmeal and lentils; that was the heart of my diet,” says Katelyn Sigglekow, who was attempting the challenge for a third year. “I slept a lot more, I exercised a lot less. I’m an active person typically, but I wasn’t able to maintain my activity. I was just really low on energy and really tired.”
Sigglekow says despite the contrivance of the experience, she was able to gain new respect for her friends and neighbours who live on welfare.
Unlike Sigglekow, Vancouver-Hastings MP Jenny Kwan was unable to complete the challenge. After coming down with the flu, she had to use most of her allowance to buy medicine.
“So you can just imagine for people living in poverty, the smallest thing, the slightest thing could blow your budget easily,” she says.
Kwan is pushing for a national strategy to end poverty. Raise the Rates, the coalition of community groups which organizes the Welfare Food Challenge, wants to make poverty an election issue in the 2017 provincial election.