Friday January 6, 2011

Local News

It's No Picnic

MLA Brar finds out shopping for food is harder than it looks on a welfare budget

Released by Bill Hopwood, RTR


The items that MLA Brar purchased for just over $32.00. He is taking the Welfare Challenge 25-years after MLA Emery Barnes did it.


oday Jagrup Brar, MLA Surrey Fleetwood, showed off the kind of food and housing that a person living on the welfare rate of $610 a month can afford.  Brar has accepted the challenge from Raise the Rates to live on the welfare rate of $610 a month for a single person. 


“Yesterday I went shopping and bought this food. I have less than $4 a day to spend on food for the month. However on my first shopping I spent $32.87, which is more than I can afford, and hope that will last week.” Brar told a news conference at his newly rented shared house in Surrey today.  Brar displayed his shopping:

  • 3 x 143 gms packs of sidekicks noodles pasta,

  • 500 gms of peanut butter,

  • 350 gms of Tofu,

  • 410 gms of wholegrain cereal,

  • 3 apples & 3 bananas,

  • 5 packages of Maggie noodles 90 gms,

  • 5 large carrots &3 tomatoes,

  • 5 green onions,

  • 1 onion & 1 green cabbage,

  • 1 kilo of frozen peas & carrots,

  • 1 loaf wholewheat bread 570 gm,

  • 2 litres skim milk

 “I looked all over for a place to rent and this was about the best value.” said Brar. “I have one room, about 200 square feet, with two small windows, but this is like a 5 star hotel as compared to the others that I saw, it even has a mini fridge and tv. However, I have to share the washroom and kitchen facilities with 7 people. Imagine if this was your home for a long time. People on welfare have to share spaces with strangers,” Brar pointed out, because that’s all they can afford.


“Welfare rates should be high enough that people can rent self-contained apartments,” said Jean Swanson, Raise the Rates. “Most importantly we need a government housing strategy to build a supply of good housing for people on low income. All over the province there is a shortage of affordable housing.”


“People need enough money to be able to afford a healthy diet. Although Brar has spent about one week of his welfare money, he doesn’t have one weeks worth of food here and will probably run out and get hungry.  This is no way to ensure that someone can stay healthy and well-groomed so they can look for work effectively. In the long run this also increases health costs as people who are poor suffer bad health.” explained Jean Swanson of Raise the Rates.


Colleen McGuire, Registered Dietitian of At the Table Nutrition Inc. explained that, “According to Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide, a man Brar's age needs a minimum of 7 servings of vegetables and fruits, 7 servings of grains, 3 servings of milk and alternatives, and 3 servings of meat and alternatives per day and some healthy fats. I commend Brar for making good food purchase choices, with foods from each of the four food groups.” 


“However, if he consumes all he needs each day for a healthy diet, he will run out of most food groups within 3 – 4 days and will be hungry. The 2009 Cost of Eating in BC report states that Brar would require at least $65 per week for a healthy food basket based on the food guide. It is not possible with $25 - 30 per week for food to meet the food guide recommendations and purchase the healthy food basket and Brar has already spent over that amount for the week, she said.



Background & References

Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide:


Cost of Eating in BC:


Jagrup Brar's Office:            

Ruby Bhandal 778-878-1293 or e-mail here.  


For more information about Raise the Rates visit:




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