PFIB now has its own website

Put Food In The Budget

Nutritious food is essential for good health. As part of our belief that fighting poverty is the best medicine money can buy, the 25in5 Network for Poverty Reduction, in partnership with the Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alPHa), is launching an Ontario-wide campaign for a Healthy Food Supplement.

We are calling for the immediate introduction of a $100 monthly supplement to the basic needs allowance for all adults receiving social assistance. The existence of widespread food insecurity and chronic illness related to poor nutrition is the result of our society’s collective negligence and a failure of public policy.

For the last ten years the Ontario Government has mandated the province’s 36 local health units to collect and report the annual cost of a Nutritious Food Basket in their areas. These reports consistently show a vast gap between the level of benefits received by people on social assistance and their ability to meet their basic food requirements along with other necessities of life.

There is no current formula for establishing social assistance benefit levels and the basic needs allowance is set far below actual market costs. We are pleased the government has created its Social Assistance Review to evaluate the true cost of living in communities across Ontario and we look forward to a new benchmark for income adequacy in setting benefit rates. This is a hopeful development. And hope matters.

In the meantime, it is critical to the health and wellbeing of social assistance recipients that the government takes a first step toward income adequacy by introducing a $100 per month Healthy Food Supplement. The Supplement will serve as a down payment in closing the monthly gap of food deficiency while reducing the negative health effects of poverty.

It will also stimulate spending in our local economies. As a recent Globe and Mail editorial says, the idea of putting money in the hands of low-income people who will spend it in their communities “is an idea with remarkably wide consensus…
In these times, putting money in the hands of those who need it is good policy.

Put food in the budget. Promote health and fight poverty.

If you are on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program, what difference would the $100 Healthy Food Supplement make to you each month? Write up to 100 words below in the comments box.

Comment from Ang

My name is Ang and I struggle to get by on the Ontario’s Disability Support Program. As a volunteer here at The Stop Community Food Centre and as someone who has lived in this neighbourhood for twenty years, I see so many of my friends and community struggle to make it through each and every day. I thought I would try to say one hundred words about the importance of a one hundred dollar healthy food supplement. I have a lot to say about this topic, so this is not an easy thing to do.


  • Healthy, good foods like milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, are expensive and are luxury items that are out of reach for people on social assistance.
  • Because we cannot afford the good, vitamin-rich food we need, so many of us slide deep into depression.
  • In our neighbourhood, depression, stress, anxiety and loss of dignity, are treated with prescriptions and anti-depressants, but so many of these symptoms could be alleviated by addressing the root causes of poor health.
  • The food bank here is busting at the seams because of increased demand. I have seen the numbers of people that eat at the drop-in here multiply immensely in the last year. I find this very worrisome.
  • We need to see this healthy food supplement in the provincial budget. To me, the benefit will be priceless.

Comment from Linda

The proposed $100 monthly food supplement for people like me living with multiple chronic disabilities and trying to survive on ODSP and eat a healthy diet translates quite simply to the following – the ability to purchase: Apples, Asparagus, Bananas, Blackberries, Blueberries, Bread, Cauliflower, Cheese, Chicken, Cranberry Juice, Eggplant, Eggs, Grapes, Kiwi Fruit, Mango, Margarine, Milk, Orange Juice, Oranges, Peanut Butter, Peppers, Pineapple, Plums, Potatoes, Rice, Salmon, Sardines, Sausages, Spinach, Stewing Beef, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Yogurt, Zucchini…items above and beyond the clearance items, food bank food and pre-packaged low cost/low nutrition items that now form the main part of my diet.

Apples (1LB/Fuji)(@ Food Basics)                        $0.79
Apples (1LB/Granny Smith)(@ Metro)              $1.49
Asparagus (1LB)(@ Price Chopper)                        $1.49
Bananas (1LB/Organic)(@ Loblaws)                        $0.79
Blackberries (1 Pint)(@ Loblaws)                        $2.50
Blueberries (6OZ)(@ Food Basics)                        $1.67
Bread (Whole Wheat/570G loaf)(@ Food Basics)    $1.49
Cauliflower (Large/White)(@ Loblaws)            $1.99
Cheese (750G/Cheddar)(@ Food Basics)            $5.99
Cheese (750G/Mozzarella)(@ Food Basics)         $5.99
Chicken Breasts (1LB/Skinless)(@ Price Chopper) $2.88
Chicken Drumsticks (1LB)(@ Food Basics)         $1.99
Cottage Cheese (500G)(@ Shoppers Drug Mart)     $1.99
Cranberry Juice (1.89L)(@ Metro)                        $2.00
Eggplant (1LB)(@ Metro)                         $1.49
Eggs (1 Dozen/Large/White)(@ Food Basics)       $1.99
Grapes (1 LB/Red & Black/Seedless)(@ Loblaws)   $1.49
Kiwi Fruit (2LB)(@ Food Basics)                 $1.67
Mango (Large)(@ Sobeys)                         $0.99
Margarine (907G/Soya)(@ Loblaws)                        $2.99
Milk (1%/4L)(@ Food basics)                     $3.97
Orange Juice (1.75L)(@ Metro)                   $2.50
Oranges (1 LB)(@ Food Basics)                   $0.69
Peanut Butter (1KG)(@ Loblaws)                  $3.49
Peppers (4 Pack/Red Bell)(@ Sobeys)             $2.99
Pineapple (@ Food Basics)                               $1.67
Plums (1 LB)(@ Food Basics)                     $0.99
Potatoes (15LB/Russet)(@ Price Chopper)         $4.99
Rice (8KG Bag)(@ Price Chopper)                 $9.88
Salmon (213G/Sockeye)(@ Loblaws)                $1.67
Sardines (106G)(@ Shoppers Drug Mart)           $0.99
Sausages (1.25 KG)(@ Sobey’s)                   $7.99
Spinach (142G)(@ Price Chopper)                 $2.49
Stewing Beef (1LB)(@ Food Basics)                       $4.99
Strawberries (1LB)(@ Price Chopper)             $1.99
Tomatoes (1LB)(@ Food Basics)                   $0.99
Yogurt (750G)(@ Price Chopper)                  $2.49
Zucchini (1LB)(@ Metro)                         $1.49
Total: (Based on prices February 15, 2009)      $99.93

Check out the videos of people commenting on the Food Supplement on the YouTube Channel


Links to Other Relevant Sites

83 thoughts on “Put Food In The Budget

  1. Brittney Bright

    I’m on odsp I’m given a special diet allowance that is the same as someone who is lactose intolerant. I have Crohn’s disease and celiac so my body attacks itself when gluten is present. The only issue is, it’s not just avoiding these foods because that’s not easy my food is triple the price and makeup, shampoo’s detergents all contain gluten so I can’t even afford the proper products to help my body try to fight through pain every day, I refuse to take opioids nor should that be my only option to help with pain what create an addiction as if I don’t deal with enough. Long story short I’m given this extra money for my diet I’m allergic to gluten and I’m also lactose intolerant, I’m lucky if I can afford to eat one meal a day on the money assistance gives to us because a medical doctor seems it a fit amount. How about contacting a nutritionist and getting them to do a monthly allowance that considers how expensive my food is because people have turned it into a health fad. I actually have no choice I suffer every time I eat something with gluten or if it gets cross contaminated. Thank you and hopefully someone actually does something about this I’m tired of not being able to eat like a normal human.

    1. People like myself who depend on ODSP as our only source of income due to severe illness/disability are having to choose to pay rent or eat. There’s a terrible stigma that follows those on assistance but many are like myself, educated, non-smokers, non- drinkers, and don’t use illegal drugs, we would much rather work any day, but sadly I can’t. I am currently not getting enough money to pay for any food at all. 100% of my money goes to rent. Someone please step in and help. I was a social worker for many years and now I am the one in need.
      We need your help!

  2. Odsp should go up food is on the rise been shopping 20 years for my children and myself to eat healthy cooked all our meals and still cook for myself it’s very expensive every time as most people know every time u walk into the food store we walk out with at least 50 in food if u wanna eat unhealthy it’s cheap so cheap but the long term of eating chips kraft dinner ect will kill u

  3. Terry – glad to see your caption on the web site and good to know that you have not lost any of your activist juices.

    David Walsh

  4. 100.00 bucks extra would make a huge difference in our eating my wife is terminally ill and our food budget is not adequate. I have to use food banks and she is unable to gain any weight and is down to like 80lbs. I would like to see ODSP and Welfare people to be given free sports fishing licenses. When were hungry I could jump out on the lake with my inflatable and fish to eat, I do it now but not very often because I am scared of getting busted with fishing without a license even though, I am doing it becasue we have to eat dinner that night a fishing license isn’t expensive but it’s $30.00 out of our meager food budget and to get the license I would have to pick to not eat for 2 days or fish without a license.I think between fishing and this 100.00 would set us up in a way that I could feed her better meals and maybe she could gain a little healthy weight even we are struggling big time when it comes to food…

    1. Odsp is an automatic conservation fishing license.
      Make sure you have your verification of that with you though.

  5. It is 15 December 2012. To date there has been no 100 dollar food benefit. This month ODSP recipients got a wooping wonderful whole 1% increase in monthly benefits. Less than $10 extra a month. I’m grateful, but come on, what the hell am I suppose to do with that when all the food I buy has risen 10times in the past year alone. Rent increases from my landlord have been 3.8%, allowed by the government, same government that helps out by giving ODSP recipients 1% to cover all these changes. Thanks for letting me know that I mean nothing. I’m not important enough to have actual rent costs covered, or real food costs covered.

  6. If this was posted in 2009 I wonder if that means there is not a hope in h** of ever getting it! This is something that is Truly needed! Having medical problems I had to go on O.D.S.P. a little over a year ago and SINCE that time I now have a Vitamin B12 deficiency and anemia!! directly related to lack of nutritional food from lack of money to purchase them. I never eat three times a day and it has to be something like pasta or some other high starch, cheap food. And to top it all off – now I had to get a Vit. B12 shot once a month and am on a heavy iron supplement which my ODSP card pays for! How ironic is that? Don’t give the money to be able to afford nutrious food yet pay for the medications/supplements for the damage done to my body! Judging from all these posts; I can see that I am not the only one! I just hope that it is still in the works being this post is so old!!

  7. it would help alot , to buy more food , i would be able to buy more fruits , and vegetable , healthy food maybe then i can lose some of this weight. and be down to where my weight should be . children would be able to eat better , and then maybe school can stop aurgering about the types of food we have to send to school as it is the cheapest. as we cannot afordd to buy the better stuff.

  8. Terry O'Connor

    Mr McGuinty I hope you and your family have had a good Christmas season. I hope your hearty has been softened so that you will do your best to help the poorest people of our province. I do what i can to help but you and I both know that ti will take strong action by the provincial government to make a difference. 23 cents a day increase for people on social assistance is deplorable. I will pray for you and your colleagues in Government that your hearts will be softened this season.

  9. I agree that OW and ODSP recipients do need this, but so do CPP Disability recipients! Anyone on CPP, actually. We get help from Trillium for prescriptions, no dental help at all, and not enough to pay all the bills and eat good, nutritious food. My son has Aspergers (recent diagnosis), and I might be able to get an extra credit for him, but is that really what it takes? Thank goodness for my Cambridge Self Help Food Bank! The government should provide Good Food Boxes to every family with low incomes.

  10. Ralph Pritchard

    Nov. 30/11.
    Just read your article in the Spec. and am in full agreement. On Oct. 8th and Nov. 29th I submitted letters to the Spec. re developing Food Cards. There was one negative reply from a food bank worker about my idea. Although we all know there are those who take advantage of the help systems, I am interested in those who are legitimately in need of assistance. The general public have been sold the story that food banks are something you should feel righteous about giving or working. The fact is we should not need them if the right system was in place. In my opinion they are demeaning and lack good choices for healthy eating. If this huge problem is not dealt with soon I fear we will see the same situation as what is happening in Egypt etc. The real problem is education and the availability of good paying jobs. Corporate America / Canada have a lot to answer for in there quest for unreasonable profits.

  11. My husband and I are on OW with medical deferrals due to chronic illness. Our family of three receive just a bit over $1000 per month. Our housing alone eats up 3/4’s of our benefits which leaves about $300 for groceries and other expenditures – that’s, at most, $25 per person per week.
    I have recently been paying more attention to our health and our eating habits. For years, we have been surviving on a nutritionally void diet as fresh, wholesome foods are simply outside our budget. I have been calculating our calorie intake and have discovered that we are chronically below our daily calorie level for maintenance of good health, sometimes as much as 1000 calories!
    People on OW and ODSP are basically starving, even if we somehow manage 3 meals a day. We are getting sick, tired, depressed and fat because we can not meet our nutritional needs on a daily basis and therefore can not function properly.
    An additional $100 per month would be a good step in the right direction.

  12. Hi there, I found your web site via Google at the same time as looking for a comparable topic, your web site got here up, it seems to be great. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  13. Here is what we are looking for:

  14. great initiative. If it didn;t fly, I think ODSP/OW should at least team up with Foodshare and provide weekly food/veggie boxes and the province takes the bill.

  15. yes i do agree with the $100.00 increase for now it will help every person that is on ontario works and odsp because for one myself is on ontario works with one teenaged child i get less then 917.00 per month for a two bedroom its at least $800.00 to $900.00 just for rent wheres the money for food buses to docters or all those over the counter perscription we have to get for me i need b12 injection on a monthly basices the cost is $39.00 plus tax also vitiams D also iron they all cost money which we dont have and we wounder why people on ontario works cannot get back to work because some of use cant eat right or even eat 3 times a day for 29 to 31 days in a month and i should know because i am on welfare i have to live that choose so yes that $100.00 increase will for sure help anyone of us out with more food.

  16. Please allow this to be passed,it is so hard to choose between food and medications that are not covered,food is always on the minds of the hungry,i was always hungry as a child and one of my fears was to be hungry as a adult and i am.

  17. yes I feel that the government should revise certain things.. my Dad has Cancer and I have no money to get to where he lives…. also travel allowance for doctor visits, and more money for healthy foods…. our kids and people with diabetes.. and larger hydro bills…

  18. I agree. We must raise the ODSP rates to a level that is above the poverty line.

  19. Mark Hinart

    Yes I agree with what your saying. One website that can help is 4RentGTA. So if you are looking for great Toronto Apartments, Toronto Condos or Toronto Homes for rent. Check out, it helped me find my new apartment and I heard its the number 1 choice for luxury toronto homes and condos. Then you won’t have to deal with this anymore

  20. Doreen Ojala

    I wonder if we are trying to correct the obvious limitations of the capitalist system of beliefs. Perhaps we need to think more wholistically, as a world, about providing the basics and how that can be achieved within an economic framework that does not bankrupt everyone. From my last recollection, our governments are bankrupt, so how can keep squeezing them for funding? They don’t have it anyways, or they need to spend it on basic services for the general population, roads, water, laws, and regulations. We are trying to squeeze blood out of a stone, we need to find a new way of doing business. I think it can start with thinking locally about everything, create local food jobs, take local control of mines, at stop foreign takeover. We are loosing our Canada – and I know we don’t want to loose our values of caring and being responsible.

  21. The recent change in the food allowance program makes the Ontario government’s policy on poverty reduction clear : reduce housing, reduce food, reduce hope, reduce life expectancies and thus reduce the number of impoverished citizens…It’s a nasty nasty policy for sure…Thank goodness for the people out their who are challenging this insanity.

  22. Julie Robinson

    $100 per month could go a long way to help many of the families I know.

  23. Correction to my piece about the Auditor General’s report:
    The current amounts of assitance are $585 and $1042. And I came to Ontario, not Ottawa, in 1969.

  24. A correction in my comment: When I came to ONTARIO in 1969… Not to Ottawa. Sorry about that.

  25. Reuel S. Amdur
    41, chemin Lavoie
    Val-des-Monts, QC J8N 7N2
    Approx. 1125 words
    Auditing the Ontario Auditor General
    Reuel S. Amdur

    Consider this an audit of the Ontario Auditor General’s 2009 Annual Report. While most of my comments will be addressed to social assistance, let’s begin with a reference to remarks about Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Rental and Supportive Housing Program: “. . . more than half of the units in this program would still be unaffordable for households on the waiting lists, or eligible to be on the lists.” This is an important observation, reflecting the actual situation of those in need of shelter. A parallel consideration of social assistance is totally lacking.

    Is the level of assistance adequate to meet basic needs of individuals and families reliant on social assistance? In constant dollars, they have less money now than under Mike Harris, a remarkable thing considering that he cut Ontario Works (OW) rates by 21.6%. It is not as if the information on the health effects is not in. For example, we have University of Toronto Professor Valerie Tarasuk’s study which shows that the Ontario Nutritious Food Basket is out of reach for recipients. Ontario governments of all stripes have refused to employ nutritionists and home economists to determine real need.

    The grossly inadequate assistance ($572 per month for a single person on Ontario Works and $1040 on the Ontario Disability Support Program—ODSP) may have something to do with why the special diet campaign which was of such concern to the Auditor General (AG) was undertaken. The campaign involved getting medical reports completed so that recipients could come closer to a decent standard of living. The alternative to such a campaign would be rather simple: a decent amount of money for recipients in their regular monthly allowances.

    Another question that the AG might have asked is why there is such a huge difference between OW and ODSP. When I came to Ottawa in 1969, the rate for a single person was almost the same for the two programs. Now the ODSP rate is almost double, and rate increases are always percentage increases, increasing the gap between OW and ODSP ever more. Is the difference a matter of prejudice against the unemployed? Only the disabled are “deserving,” it appears. Yet, the stomach size does not vary from OW to ODSP.

    The headlines about the AG’s 2009 report were all about overpayments. Some of the overpayments were fraud, but far from all. In fact, a great many are simply normal changes in financial circumstances, for example adjustments on heating bills. Overpayments also occurred due to error, both client error and error by the ODSP and OW workers. The amounts of overpayments listed by the AG are cumulative, from 2003. If one looks at just 2008-2009, the increase in ODSP overpayments for clients who are still active is $9.2 million, which would be about $20 per case (450,000 cases). For OW, the AG notes that $140 million is the accumulative overpayment. For 202,181 cases, that amounts to $70 per case. He does not tell us how much this year’s overpayment is in excess of last year’s. The question remains, is the rate of overpayment, aside from the minor changes in financial circumstances that arise, in an acceptable range?

    If one looks at fraud (not simply errors) on income tax or EI, for example, the rates and amounts dwarf the overpayments on social assistance. Perhaps the AG should look at fraud on provincial income taxes, for example.

    One factor causing overpayments is the complexity of the system. There are so many rules, some completely incomprehensible, that it is a challenge for staff to apply them. In 1988, the Transitions report of the Social Assistance Review Committee called for the system to be simplified. Since then, the NDP government increased complexity exponentially, followed by Mike Harris who increased it astronomically. The AG complains that reviews required by the laws and regulations are not completed in a timely manner. What do you expect? He notes an average ODSP caseload of 266, with 351 in one office.

    The complexity of the system also leads to underpayments. Unlike overpayments, underpayments expire if not caught. It would have been interesting if the AG had studied underpayments thoroughly, to compare them to overpayments. At a macro level, underpayments exist when people are kept on OW when they should be receiving ODSP.

    The AG repeats the lie that OW is a program of “temporary income support.” I was a supervisor in an OW office in Ottawa, and one occasionally ran across cases with histories with the department going back 20 years. Shortly before I left, I saw two with 25-year histories. Transitions recommended that anyone on for over two years should be transferred to the provincial program, with higher benefits.

    AG Jim McCarter gives detail about rates of approval of applicants for ODSP, time it takes, etc. The key issue, as indicated by the fact that many cases drag on and on, on OW, and that rates of acceptance for ODSP vary widely from adjudicator to adjudicator and from Social Benefits Tribunal member to SBT member—the key issue is that the system does a very poor job of distinguishing between the disabled and those not. And the purpose of the exercise is, in any case, simply punitive.

    There are three other matters that this audit of the AG report will now touch on. First, the AG notes that in the internal review, which follows on request from the applicant who has been turned down, the decision of the Disability Adjudication Unit is sent to the applicant in writing. What the AG fails to note is that the written document is a totally uninformative form letter. Boilerplate.

    The report also notes that an ODSP recipient can have trust funds up to $100,000. In fact, there is no limit to the amount that a recipient can have in a Henson Trust. And finally, a word about medical reviews that are required in many ODSP cases. The AG comments on the backlog and the failure to do reviews in a timely fashion. Perhaps the issue of workload and complexity have something to do with this.

    One might well ask why ODSP staff could not do a preliminary screening for medical reviews. If the situation has clearly not improved sufficiently, why involve a doctor again? Perhaps you have heard the rumor that it is sometimes difficult to get in to see a doctor to fill out ODSP papers, especially if you do not have a family physician. Of course that also raises the question about the practice in ODSP of promoting clerks to positions of handling caseloads, without additional training.

    AG Jim McCarter, for your next report we look forward to improvement in your analysis. You can do better if you really try.

  26. I am a single mother who is on the cusp of receiving no benefits from either Ontario Works or ODSP. It is interesting for me to read these comments as most of the facts are correct except for one thing. It is the system that has to change, not one individual program, such as food allowance. ODSP recipients receive more than people on Ontario Works for rental allowances, basic needs etc.
    It is the rent prices, gas prices, land taxes that are increasing societies cost of living, which in turn is the provinical and federal government.
    We have so many supplimental benefits such as food banks, emergency funds, Ontario Works, LIPPY, ODSP, geared to income that it is costing more money than putting all these organizations together, creating one provincial supplimentary program. This will cut down on adminstrative fees, such as rent for government agencies buildings, government employment, wages that are above minimum wage which also include medical benefits.
    Just something to think about.

  27. i think that i agree with this initative and i also think that we should be supportive of those in need in our community

  28. I believe there are numerous steps that could be taken to alleviate the misery of life on O.W. or ODSP. Raise the amount for housing (because clients use their food allowance to find affordable housing), raise the amount of basic needs so good nutrition will save money in health care in the long run. While family are allowed “gift” monthly financial help to those on ODSP, there is no tax benefit in doing so. A tax break here would be at least an incentive. Keeping in mind that much of Canada is rural, a more realistic amount for necessary medical related travel would also help. Whenever the client needs something extra, including seasonal clothing, it must come out of basic needs. There has to be a better way to care for those who are marginalized by health or circumstances.

  29. I am personally dissatisfied with the income that the government thinks that those on ODSP should receive. For example, the amount given for shelter for a mother and child is $850. This is rediculous as there is not a 2 bedroom out there worth living in for less than $825. And without rental caps, the person is forced to move within a few years as the rent becomes too high and the individual becomes even more indept because of the necessary move. Do I think that $100 a month should be provided to individuals on ODSP. Absolutely!!!!! No matter what the money is for, it is absolutely necessary for people on disability just to help them to survive. Our alloted amount is nothing less than a joke.

  30. stacy lynn


    when are we getting it??

  31. Of course I agree with this initiative this is a very good idea to help to many people!I think it is vital that we support those who are in need.

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