Welfare Food Challenge will be launched in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

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      Later today (October 16), politicians and union leaders will be among those pledging to spend only $18 on food for the next week.

      NDP MP Jenny Kwan, Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer, Hospital Employees' Union president Victor Elkins, and B.C. Teachers' Federation president Glen Hansman are among those who will explain why they're taking the Welfare Food Challenge.

      Other participants include NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, former Green party federal candidate Wes Regan, Pivot Legal Society lawyers DJ Larkin and Katrina Pacey, B.C. Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger, and Vancouver's managing director of social policy, Mary Clare Zak.

      The advocacy group Raise the Rates will launch its Welfare Food Challenge at Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House at 12:45 p.m.

      The annual campaign draws attention to what it's like for those living in extreme poverty. B.C. social-assistance recipients have not had an increase in nine years.

      "Because of soaring rents, a single person on basic welfare has only $18 a week for food," Raise the Rates has claimed.

      It bases this figure on the $610 per month provided to an employable single person.

      According to Raise the Rates, a "realistic" rent for a single-occupancy room in Vancouver is $479. After including a $20 damage deposit, $25 for a cellphone to look for work, and $10 per month for hygiene and laundry, it leaves only $76 per month for food.

      This, of course, assumes there would be no money for clothes, transit, coffee, haircuts, social activities or treats.

      The B.C. government's shelter allowance portion is $375 per month. However, the City of Vancouver has reported that the average SRO rent is, in fact, $479 per month.