Anti-poverty group challenges Minster in charge of welfare to stand in food lines

Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territory –Raise the Rates is challenging the BC Minister in charge of welfare to spend a week lining up for food at food banks and food lines.

The challenge is in response to Moira Stilwell’s comment in 24 Hours today: “Addressing Society’s difficult challenges is not the sole responsibility of government.” Stilwell’s response came “when asked what the province has done the past 30 years since the food bank was established to help welfare recipients who couldn’t afford healthy diets,” according to 24 Hours.

“The BC government creates poverty, by setting welfare rates and the minimum wage so low, that people are forced to live in poverty. They leave charities, families and individuals to deal with the problems,” explained Bill Hopwood of Raise the Rates.

“Last month the Welfare Food Challenge proved that people on welfare don’t have enough money to eat,” said Bill Hopwood. “A single person has only about $26 a week for food. Even a dietician with a Master’s degree couldn’t make that little money cover his nutritional needs.”

When people don’t have enough money to buy food, they have to stand in food lines for hours every day. They don’t get to make basic choices that others take for granted, like what kind of food to eat.

“Having to wait in line for hours in order to eat means much less time is available for a job search. Inadequate welfare rates also mean people are hungry and humiliated when searching for jobs – which makes it harder for people on welfare to compete for one of scarce jobs,” added Hopwood.

If Stilwell accepts this challenge, Raise the Rates will provide someone to go with her so she can ‘learn the ropes’ about living without enough money to eat properly.

Raise the Rates is the BC anti-poverty coalition that challenged MLAs to live on welfare last January and sponsored the Welfare Food Challenge in November. On December 7th Raise the Rates held a “Poor People’s Radio Show” outside the CBC during their food bank day to make the point that if welfare was raised, we wouldn’t need food banks.

“Food banks deal with hunger but the root cause is poverty which government policies create,” explained Hopwood. “The solution to food banks is to raise welfare and the minimum wage. This would save the people of BC billions of dollars, and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.”