My name is Samantha Truong and I am a Vietnamese Chinese Canadian teenager who is participating in the third annual Welfare Food Challenge. This challenge started on World Food Day (October 16), and ends tomorrow (October 22).
During this past week, participants were challenged to live on only the food they could purchase with $21, as that is the amount of money people on welfare receive weekly.
The goal is to show our government that $21 is not an adequate amount of money for food and that welfare rates need to be increased.
Throughout my participation in this challenge, I noticed multiple changes in my daily routine.
First, I was often left hungry. This made it very difficult to focus in class and on my assignments.
Second, I was deprived of time. If I was not cooking something in the kitchen, I was comparing grocery flyers to find items on sale. Also, because I do not have a car, I had to take public transit. As a result, this decreased the time I had to spend on my studies and sleep.
Lastly, I was often left feeling more lethargic and less energetic, as I had to compromise a nutritious diet for a more cost-efficient one.
Through my lived experiences, I can say that living on $3 a day is clearly negatively effecting the individual and that that welfare rates need to go up.
In August 2014, there were 177,778 people on welfare in B.C.
With less than $3 a day to spend on food, recipients of welfare are often if not always left hungry and malnourished. The dieticians of Canada state that for a basic healthy diet—with no luxuries such as coffee, et cetera—a healthy adult woman should spend around $200 per month while a man should spend around $250. That’s compared to the $84 people on welfare receive per month, which does not even meet half of the minimum requirement.
Poverty costs the people of B.C. over $8 billion every year. Poverty cost the health system alone over $1.2 billion a year. The cost of a full anti-poverty program would be less than $4 billion—a savings of $4 billion in the money and huge savings in human well-being. So let’s stop this cycle because people living in poverty do not choose to be there.
I took this challenge because I believe that I have a responsibility to speak up for those who are silenced. My father and mother were on welfare when they arrived to Canada as immigrants escaping from the Vietnam War. My two older siblings and parents experienced living on the cruel stipend of $800/month for a four-person family on welfare. I feel accountable for voicing their struggles, which were silenced through language barriers and fear of not receiving support. My intent is to raise awareness of the fact that current welfare rates are not adequate to live on, and rates need to be raised.
Fighting poverty and social exclusion is a collective responsibility. Some things you can do to support this challenge is to have conversations with family and friends about food security initiatives and possible solutions. Contact your local MLA, volunteer your time and skills at an organization that supports poverty reduction, and sign the raise the rates petition.