Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Reflections on the Challenge

One year after completing the 5th Annual Welfare Food Challenge I'm finally sharing some wrap up thoughts on the experience of our family.

While I know a few brave souls taking on the challenge again this year, I have been dealing with some health issues recently that make the stress of this challenge something I'm not taking a chance on this time around.

Of course, it is a remarkable privilege to choose not to go hungry because it's bad for your health, and totally frustrating that there are so many people who need healthy food but can't afford it!

While I was able to feed our family pretty well through the week last year, it sure was a lot of work to do so. And I even took advantage of a few things in our life, like using a co-op car for a day to do our shop, and that we have a kitchen full of things that made it easier to prepare it all. This blog is where we posted all the details of our experience as a family doing the challenge for the week, so you can read the specifics if you like.

With the Welfare Food Challenge beginning today for the 6th year, I was rereading the posts we shared last year, and reliving in my mind what it was like, how much anxiety it caused within me. All the time researching, preparing, and then prepping, baking, cooking. Remembering that it was always a temporary thing for us, the week of meager food spending, but for too many people it's a vicious cycle that is near impossible to break out of.

While the new provincial government did increase the monthly rates by $100, that still forces people to meet all of their needs on only $710 a month, in one of the most expensive places on earth to live. It was easier for our family to cobble together a good meal plan for a week with $54, than it was for individuals participating who only had $18 to feed themselves. And after the rate increase this year participants only get to spend $19! Though the rates were raised a wee bit since last year, the cost of living continues to raise too!

We did the challenge last year because we wanted to take some form of action and add our voices to the many who are calling on governments to Raise the Rates and support policies that genuinely would help those in need, rather than trapping them in endless cycles of poverty and despair.

I encourage you to check out some of the participant stories. I found following along with others last year to be very informative and their experience gave me even more food for thought. I will be sure to follow participants this year to see how they do. I'll get to hear first hand experience from Ian Marcuse at work, but while not participating in the challenge, it sure will be hard to not share food with him like I did last year!

One project he was a part of was the creation of a food map for folks who are looking for low-cost/free food at any time. This incredible new map was created by Vancouver Coastal Health public health dietitians who partnered with Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks, UBC Land and Food Systems students and instructors, the City of Vancouver and Fresh Roots, that may help you find something close to home.
The map highlights food assets located in Vancouver. Food assets are places where people can grow, prepare, share, buy, receive or learn about food. Community organizations and schools are included on the map because they are places where community members can get support with learning and health or connect with others in their community.
Every human should have access to good healthy food close to home at affordable prices. Every human should earn living wages for their labour. Every human should have access to affordable housing. And since humans are also citizens who elect representatives to various levels of government to meet our needs (food and housing are needs!) we all have to keep finding ways to raise our voices together, and keep taking any actions we can, until these needs are met.

I'm grateful to the organizers who keep up the pressure to Raise the Rates all year, every year. I'm also grateful there are so many people that are willing to participate in this challenge to amplify the voices of the hungry in our province. My thoughts are with you all.

Be well everyone.

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