I am a dietitian involved in food security work. Food security means all people at all times can access and afford nutritious food in ways that maintain human dignity. The United Nations has designated food as a basic human right. Unfortunately many poor people in Nova Scotia do not experience this right. I attended the Action Against Poverty march this past Saturday where ~150 people marched together chanting “raise the rates now” (referring to Income Assistance rates). Current IA rates do not enable those on welfare to purchase nutritious food; this fact has consistently been shown via provincial food costing studies which have been conducted since 2002. In these studies, the cost of a basket of 66 food items is priced in grocery stores across NS. According to 2007 results, it costs $194/month to feed a single adult male. Adults only receive $208/month from Community Services for their Personal Allowance; this amount is suppose to cover not just food, but also telephone, clothes, cleaning supplies, toiletries and any other additional expense not related to shelter. Impossible. If people cannot afford to eat nutritiously they are at much greater risk for chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and osteoporosis. A nutritious diet can directly mitigate these diseases. Consider the cost of 2L of pop compared to 2L of milk. Individuals on low income know the better choice; they simply cannot afford the choice. Our government needs to realize that chronic disease rates, and therefore health care costs, will continue to rise unless we enable all citizens to afford nutritious food. Rich or poor, food is a right.
Sincerely, Rebecca Green MSc, PDtHalifax, NS
By Rebecca Green, MSc, PDt