Social assistance comes up $305 short on grocery bill

Social assistance comes up $305 short on grocery bill

New research done at UPEI suggests P.E.I.'s social assistance food rates fall well below what it costs to buy healthy food.

Colleen Walton, a professor in the Department of Applied Human Sciences, visited six grocery stores in Queens County last June to find out what it would cost to buy a month's worth of healthy food for a family of four.

Walton found the province's social assistance food allowance came up well short of the cost of the groceries.

- Cost: $901.

- Social assistance allowance: $596.

- Shortfall: $305.

Walton said not being able to afford nutritious food is affecting people's health, and putting more strain on the health care system.

"We really need to address limited income for people, and we need to look at the social assistance food rates, to make sure that they are adequate," she said.

"Beyond that, looking at comprehensive, almost interdisciplinary interdepartmental programs within government that address the root cause of all this, which is poverty."

5-year plan to increase rates

A statement from the provincial Department of Family of Human Services says government is committed to developing a plan to help reduce poverty.

Current initiatives include a five-year plan to increase social assistance food rates, now in its fourth year, and increases to the minimum wage that will keep it the highest in Atlantic Canada.

The department says a working group has collected data about poverty in P.E.I., and a discussion paper will be developed on the findings in the coming months.

Walton and representatives from the province are taking part in a panel discussion on food insecurity on the Island Monday night at UPEI.

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