Sask. couple criticizes special diet cuts

Grocery shopping is already difficult for Alan Hall and Marianne Hollman-Hall, who are both disabled and use wheelchairs — and last month, they received only $125 to purchase food.

Changes to Sask. dietary benefit supplement came into effect Oct. 1

Alan Hall and Marianne Hollman-Hall's fridge is almost empty, because they can't afford to fill it up with nutrient-dense foods they need to treat their health issues. (Bridget Yard/CBC )

Grocery shopping is already difficult for Alan Hall and Marianne Hollman-Hall, who are both disabled and use wheelchairs — and last month, they received only $125 to purchase food.

The couple, who lives in Saskatoon, depend on the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability program, so money is tight and their cupboards are nearly bare. A family friend buys food for their three cats, because the Halls can't afford it.

As of Oct. 1, the standardized 3,000-calorie diet benefit, which equalled $75, was nixed. Now, benefits for high-calorie diets of more than 2,999 calories must be signed off by a medical professional.

The couple were recipients of the 3,000-calorie diet benefit, but they say they didn't receive the appropriate medical forms to continue getting that extra money until mid-October. Even though their doctor sent the appropriate forms, signed and dated, to the government soon after the Halls received them, they're still out money this month.

Alan Hall and Marianne Hollman-Hall are concerned for their future and for their health, especially after the Saskatchewan government made cuts to the special dietary benefit, and their paperwork to claim the benefit was delayed. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Hollman-Hall is a cancer survivor who needs extra fibre in her diet. Hall has high blood pressure and cholesterol. Neither believe they are receiving the proper nutrition to treat their conditions, in part because of their decreased grocery allowance.

"I'm hoping it will be reinstated next month," said Hall.

"The $125 bucks you get for a month of food isn't enough to meet the nutritional needs, and yet they're willing to pay for pills and everything."

The diet benefit change is expected to affect 760 people on Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability program, and 600 people on the Saskatchewan Assistance Program, according to the Ministry of Social Services.

A message for the Sask. Party

"I would like to see the Sask. Party increase the food budget up to a maximum of $300," said Hall, a longtime advocate for people with disabilities. "It hasn't been increased in 32 years — that includes a couple of NDP governments."

People in this couple's situation have been encouraged to reach out to dieticians to get a customized diet budget based on their needs, but Hall worries how long it would take to get an appointment.

Plus, he said, "It can add more money into the food budget, but it still doesn't add enough, considering food costs have gone up in the past 30 years."

The latest round of provincial cuts have also affected Hall's advocacy, he said.

He used to take a Saskatchewan Transportation Company bus to Saskatchewan Association for Community Living meetings out of town when he was a board member. The STC is no more.

"There is no provision in their transportation reaction to cover the needs of the disabled, so we can't be as involved in our community as we'd like to be, and bring issues up and try to make life better for all disabled people," Hall said.


Bridget Yard is a journalist and content creator based in the Greater Toronto Area. Originally from Schumacher, a small mining community in northern Ontario, she spent a decade pursuing a career in journalism close to home, then in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan with CBC.