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Social assistance families face $147 food budget deficit

Food costs at grocery stores in Charlottetown have risen 38 per cent since 2005, according to a study released to CBC News, and social assistance rates are not keeping up.

Food costs up, social assistance not keeping pace

Food costs at grocery stores in Charlottetown have risen 38 per cent since 2005, according to a study released to CBC News, and social assistance rates are not keeping up.

The research by UPEI Food and Nutrition and Applied Human Sciences professor Jennifer Taylor shows families on social assistance would be short $147 a month, if they tried to buy a recommended list of 66 grocery items representing a healthy diet. That is for food only, and the P.E.I. food allowances are also supposed to cover household and personal goods.

"That deficit assumes that they're not spending one nickel on anything else other than food, and of course that's ridiculous," Taylor told CBC News.

"You can't run a household without having dish soap, and you know, things like that. So basically the deficit is actually much higher than that.

The Department of Community and Social Services plans to increase the food allowance in January five per cent for single people on welfare, but the minister says families will have to wait at least until spring for an increase.

A family of four on P.E.I. would use more than half their entire social assistance cheque buying the province's recommended list of healthy food for a month, said Taylor. The average Island family spends 12 per cent of its salary a month on food.

Taylor said the P.E.I. government must increase social assistance to narrow that gap.

"It's not too surprising that the one-time increase that they did give a couple of years ago is not adequate," she said.

The province needs to look at ways to increase rates on a regular basis, said Taylor, and connect it to food costs.

For mobile device users:

Read the food costing report here.

What should the government do about the food budget for families on social assistance?

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