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Raise the Rates says that the BC Government $2million grant for “food rescue” operations will not solve the problem of food insecurity in BC as the root cause is income poverty.  

They say, “Distributing surplus food has won out over raising welfare rates to enable the hungry and homeless to afford to feed themselves and their families. The year’s humiliating $50 monthly benefit increase keeps them with incomes 50 per cent below the poverty line.” Cash is needed to shop for food in normal and customary ways: a living wage, adequate income benefits, real rent control.

Click here to read the article as it appeared in the Tyee.

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Released March 18, 2019 called, TogetherBC.

BC. has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country, with more than 557,000 people living below the poverty line, including about 100,000 children. Nearly half of those who live in poverty work, and children from single-parent families, Indigenous people, refugees and people with disabilities are much more likely to be poor. In B.C., the poverty line is about $20,000 a year for singles and about $40,000 a year for a family of four.

The Plan brings together policy changes the NDP government has made since its 2017 election. Together, those changes are expected to reduce overall poverty by one-quarter and cut child poverty in half in the next five years. That means 140,000 people, including 50,000 children, should no longer be living in poverty by 2024.

“It’s a strategy that at its heart is about people,” said Shane Simpson, minister of social development and poverty reduction. “It’s about the challenges they face every day just to get by. It’s about the right of every British Columbian to be seen to be valued, to have access to opportunities for a better life for themselves and their families.”

The Pan brings together policies already announced by the government, such as increasing minimum wage to $15.20 by 2021 and making childcare more affordable, which the government plans to spend $1 billion on between 2018 and 2021.

In this year’s budget, the government announced a new child tax credit, which boosts the money families with children get to a possible $1,600 per year, up to age 18. It also increased income and disability assistance rates by $50, bringing basic income assistance for a single, employable person up to $760 per month, still well below the poverty line. The plan uses the Market Basket Measure, which is based on what it costs to buy the goods and services for a modest, basic standard of living, to count people living in poverty.

Future changes could include initiatives on a basic income plan — a plan where all people would receive a minimum income, based on what it takes to live a basic life in BC. An expert panel is exploring the idea, including looking at what may need to happen as artificial intelligence and automation grow and the jobs of today disappear. It is also reviewing our income assistance programs.

Poverty costs all of us, every day. We see its effects in our schools, in our hospitals and on our streets as people struggle to get by. How poverty interacts with our justice and mental health systems is impossible to separate. Alleviating poverty benefits everyone — it’s money well spent.

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The nutritious diet recommended in the new Canada Food Guide is out of reach for millions of Canadians because they can’t afford it.

If we want to stop millions of Canadians from going to bed hungry every night, we need to ensure that they have the ability to access food. So, who is going hungry in this country?  We know that BC has the highest poverty rate in Canada. However, did you know that we have a growing community of working poor whose wages do not cover basic necessities? Inadequate wages, shrinking social assistance rates, meagre pensions, illness and disability are at the heart of food insecurity in this country.

Did you know that 31% of single mothers are missing meals so their kids can eat? Or that one in six children live in households that can’t afford to put supper on the table? In BC, the average monthly cost of the 2017 nutritious food basket for a family of four is now $1,019.  

Individuals don’t fare better. A person receives $760 per month on social assistance and has $18.25 per week to spend on food. Despite the two increases in the past year that have raised the rate to $760 per month, the additional $150 has been eaten by the increase of $130 in rents to Single Room Occupancy hotels in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (example).  Jean Swanson, speaking to her experience on the Welfare Food Challenge says, “It was hard eating on $19 a week (2017 amount). I tried, then cheated and gave up. The food was too boring and not nutritious. Dieticians have told us that you just can’t have a healthy diet on this paltry amount of money.”

The new Canada Food Guide aims to support people to live healthier lives. The new guide provides guidance on what we should eat that is more plants and plant-based protein, more whole grains, less sugar, less saturated fat—and more importantly,  how to eat—at home, with others, with joy and  pleasure. The addition of this social context is important. We know the power of food to connect us to our communities and neighbours thereby increasing our sense of belonging. 

The guidelines in the new Canada Food Guide are to be commended, especially introducing the social aspect on eating with friends, family and at home. As long as we continue to have poverty in our rich country, there will be millions of our neighbours who cannot afford to live healthier lives.  Poverty is the root of the problem for those who are food insecure. 

We encourage all our members to support the work of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and Raise the Rates, and to support food and garden programs that allow all our community members to eat and share a meal together. CCEC will continue to advocate for decent living wages and fairer social benefits.

For more information:

The new Canada Food Guide highlights the biggest obstacle to healthy eating—poverty – McLeans Article

The New Canada Food Guide

Jean Swanson on Why the Welfare Food Challenge was cancelled in 2018

 * Food Costing in BC 2017: Assessing the affordability of healthy eating  October 2018

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Did you know that:

·         In BC, 50% of all seniors live on an income of less than $26,000/year?

·         The 2018 Homeless Count found that 23% were over the age of 55?

·         It is estimated that by 2038, about one in four people living in B.C. will be a senior?

Seniors face many issues and challenges that include social isolation, loneliness and poverty.  The Seniors 411 Society offers programs that reduce social isolation, increase social inclusion, and are a critical component of any anti-poverty strategy.  The Society’s submission on a Poverty Reduction Strategy for Seniors (Feb. 2018) states that the BC plan must address both increasing income and helping reduce or manage costs.  They also provided recommendations in seven areas that include housing, transportation, food insecurity and community based programs.  BC is still the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction plan.

In the 411 Seniors Centre Society submission, they emphasize the importance of community and social connections for seniors.  Seniors have told staff at the Society that they feel a loss of community if they move to a different and unfamiliar neighbourhood.  However, aging in place and finding quality, affordable rental homes in Vancouver, is a challenge for seniors on low and fixed incomes.  The new 411 Seniors Centre (anticipate ground breaking in Spring 2019) is a step to providing more seniors social housing.  It will have approximately 50 units of social housing, a multi-purpose centre and be located close to other amenities and services they need.

Leslie Remund, Executive Director for the 411 Seniors Centre Society, says, “We are a peer led membership organization that aims to cushion the impact of poverty by providing information, referral and advocacy services, a drop in for socialization & connection& daily activities that promote aging with pride and curiosity.”   The Centre strives to enhance the quality of life of seniors by adding a collective voice on seniors’ issues such as affordable housing, income, and health services.   Join us!”

Find out more about the 411 Seniors Centre Society.  Support their capital campaign for their new building.

(This year, CCEC was pleased to support a fundraiser for the 411 Seniors Centre Society.)

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Which welfare model should we trial or adopt in BC? How are other countries addressing the welfare needs of their citizens? Here are a few recent announcements:   

  • Finland announced that it is stopping their trial of the Universal Basic Income (UBI) program at the end of 2018.  They are looking into alternative welfare schemes including the Universal Credit model.  
  • Read how the current Universal Basic Income trials are falling short of holding society-changing potential. Is Basic Income being setup to fail? 
  • The United Kingdom introduced a Universal Credit program in 2013,  However, a recent article in the Economist suggests that the roll-out is not going well.  

  What do you think we should be doing in BC?  Add Your Comments...

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Wealth inequality is growing in Canada and in the US.  But our political parties seem not to notice, are they on the take?

Last week the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published a great analysis of the wealth concentration in Canada.  In BORN TO WIN,  David Macdonald reviews the census data to clearly show how our tax system, public investment strategies, and regulatory efforts serve the rich very well.  He note in the introduction that over the 17 year period ending in 2016 the 87 wealthiest families in Canada saw their wealth grow by 37%, more than twice the rate at which was experienced for middle class families.

American academic Karen Petrou is raising the same issues south of the border, this interview in Bloomberg is great, laying the groundwork for her new book to be published early next year.  She is a harsh critic of both the way banks have been regulated and monetary policies - to the disadvantage of the many.

Both of these arguments clearly outline a problem that is bigger than 'windfalls' that benefit some home owners.  Housing affordability and precarious employment are a consequence of public policy decisions, that systemically favour the wealthy.  As Macdonald states, "... in general Canada’s tax system is set up to encourage concentration of wealth at the very top." 

 

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Meet CCEC Member Tani Tupechka

Accessing good food during illness and the leg hold trap of poverty is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced.  In 2009, I was forced off work and onto disability because of a chronic muscle illness. Food took on a whole new meaning for me.

At the recent Vancouver Food Summit, a Coast Salish elder said, “food is life.” So true.  And food is also love and fueled by communities working together.

Each of us has an important role to play in food security - including community organizations like CCEC. I’ve done a good deal of food activism at the community level; in gardens, kitchens and educational initiatives.  I saw how access to good, affordable food is a huge barrier for many people – as it was for me.  NGOs and organizations need to receive the support to put even more energy and resources towards this key issue.

Accessing local food programs became key for my survival.  I had support from people in my community, but if it wasn’t for the financial help that CCEC provided, I would have gone hungry many times.  On top of that, in the spirit of community, the workers at CCEC always treated me with respect when I needed help, especially Atilio Alvarez.  He never once treated me like I was poor or untrustworthy, instead he was always kind, supportive and caring.  I am super grateful to him and the many people in our communities that helped me when I needed it most. 

Recently, I’ve been able to return to the community work I love and my own struggles have focused my energies on food justice.  Food security is at the heart of social and environmental justice. It ensures that people not only survive, but begin to thrive.  

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Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks Work Towards a Poverty Free BC 

Lettuce Turnip the Beet on Poverty Reduction Campaign

Meet CCEC Member, Vancouver Neighbouhood Food Networks (VNFN) and Ian Marcuse, tong-time CCEC Member who is one of the sponsors for this group.  Ian works for the Grandview Woodland Food Connection, one of the 14 neighbourhoods across Vancouver who belong to this Food Network.

The VNFN’s are a grassroots network of people, organizations and agencies collaborating on food initiatives to ensure that all community members have access to healthy, culturally appropriate and sustainably produced food.  Ian says, “We know that food brings people together and help to build connections, but it also divides us as a community.  There are too many people that don’t have enough money to pay for food.”  Financial constraints have been identified as an underlying cause of food insecurity by groups including the Dieticians of Canada.

That is why Ian and the other Network Coordinators are working with the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition to bring attention to the fact that British Columbia remains the only province in Canada without a formal plan to reduce poverty; and that having an effective and comprehensive poverty reduction plan is critical for achieving food security.  Ian says, “In our work, we engage with the most marginalized community members, witnessing first-hand the detrimental impact that barriers to accessing food and abject poverty can have on a persons’ health and well-being. It is often those with the greatest need for high quality nutritious food that face the most difficult barriers to accessing it.” 

He shares with us the story of one of the participants in the Bulk Buying Program.

"When I first met her just over one year ago, she said, “I am literally starving”, and now she says, “this program has saved my life".   I’ve worked 9 years in this job and no-one in Vancouver has said to me that they were starving.  I then learned that Anne is a pensioner, on a low fixed income, has multiple health and mobility related issues related to eating an unhealthy diet for many years.  She didn’t have money for healthy food.  Then her doctor told her she was malnourished and must eat more fruits, vegetables and unprocessed foods.

Being in the program has given her the option to eat more veggies.  Anne now enjoys trying new foods she would not normally eat, such as kale.   She also describes the community connection that has helped her.  Anne told me she feels that the program is not just a food pick up, but an event to look forward to and a chance to connect with others and share health and cooking tips and what works for others."

Ian tells us that the Food Networks campaign, Lettuce Turnip the Heat on Poverty Reduction – Vote!  is designed to make the connection between poverty and food insecurity.  He says, “Poverty is an election issue. We are working to raise our voices together to show candidates in the provincial election that we’ll be voting for politicians that commit to a strong and thorough poverty reduction plan.”

For more information and to see the the infographics developed by the VNFN group that show the impacts on each pillar on alleviating hunger, visit http://vancouverfoodnetworks.com/vote/  
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Hunger in Canada is not about the lack of food.  People are food insecure because they can’t afford to eat.  Poverty is a multi-dimensional problem.  We know that the systemic causes of poverty cannot be addressed overnight.  But, we need to put in place a Government-wide integrated approach to addressing the systemic issues of poverty based on the principles of social inclusion and collaboration.  And that we need to start with income.

Meet CCEC Member, the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks and its’ member sponsors, Ian Marcuse and Joanne MacKinnon.  Ian says, “As the price of food escalates, increasing numbers of households are feeling the food affordability squeeze.  We are seeing more people coming to our programs that include community kitchens, community meals and food hampers (bulk buying and free baskets).  We are feeling under pressure as we need to expand our existing food programs and establish new food programs to serve those in need.  Ideally, rather than expanding existing food security programming, we would prefer to tackle the systems that result in food insecurity and end poverty."

So, who is going hungry?  We have a growing population of working poor in Canada whose wages do not cover basic necessities.  2/3 of food insecure people are working.  We know that inadequate wages, shrinking social assistance rates, meager pensions, illness and disability are at the heart of food insecurity.  More than 4 million people in Canada are unsure about where they’ll eat next or skip meals so their kids can eat.   1 in 8 people are food insecure but only 25% access the food bank.

The Neighbourhood Food Networks, with 12 part-time funded coordinators, are part of the Greenest City Action Plan to address food security and to increase all residents’ access to healthy, culturally appropriate food.  Joanne MacKinnon says, “We believe in the right-to-food, and social justice are at the forefront of our philosophy and how we approach our work.”  She continues, “We work with our program participants but are engaged and contribute their diverse skills and talents toward co-creating a just and sustainable neighbourhood food system.”

Part of the solution is for BC, who is the only province in Canada without a Poverty Reduction Strategy and Canada, who lacks a comprehensive policy to step up and put in place the strategies and policies around food justice.  According to CCEC Member, Raise the Rates, Canada has a Poverty Policy.  This needs to change.

But, Do Poverty Reduction Strategies work?  Let’s look at Newfoundland and Labrador's Poverty Reduction Strategy which is a government-wide (13 Ministries) approach to promoting self-reliance, opportunity, and access to key supports for persons vulnerable to poverty.  The strategy, introduced in 2006, includes more than 90 initiatives that were created based on an intensive public consultation process.  Their cross Ministerial approach developed strategies to address the linkages between poor health and low income, between low income employment and limited economic development, between poverty and violence and impacts on women’s equality, and the need to support persons with disabilities.  How do they know it is working?  Just one indicator shows that it is working: food insecurity has been reduced by 50%. 

The bottom line is that we should be supporting employees fighting for fair, livable wages.  It’s time that politicians, backed by citizen voices, talk about justice and equity.  It’s time to create real, long lasting solutions to poverty and hunger, policies that bring us together, rather than divide us as citizens.

In BC, we have 17 government ministries that work with vulnerable populations and, often-times, they seem to be working at cross purposes.  We know that the systemic causes of poverty cannot be addressed overnight.  But, we know we need to get started.  Next year, 2017, is a BC Provincial Government election.  Make your vote count.

The Neigbhourhood Food Network and its’ coordinators at the local level are unique and separate in that we respond to community needs with grassroots solutions. But, together, we represent the experiences of thousands of individuals across the city, giving us an important role to play in advocacy and systems change.

Learn more about the Neighbourhood Food Networks and support our work. 

And, sign on to end poverty in Canada:  http://www.dignityforall.ca/   

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During WW2 in Britain, the government introduced rationing to make sure that people got an equal amount of food every week.  Rationing lasted 14 years, ‘Dig For Victory’ gardens were everywhere, and the health of all improved, infant mortality decreased, and life expectancy increased.  Before the Second World War started Britain imported about 55 million tons of food a year from other countries.  During the war as supply lines were impacted, they had to take measures to increase their food self-sufficiency. The government was worried that as food became scarcer, prices would rise and poorer people might not be able to afford to eat.

Compare the food basket during rationing with what a person on welfare can buy in BC today:

We need to raise the rate! Read our blog on Raise the Rate or visit their Website.

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