PEI Social Assistance Rates too Low to Afford Healthy Food?


Canada has many social welfare programs, including; employment insurance, medicare and social assistance. The Social Assistance program, as described by the provincial government of PEI website, “helps you meet your basic needs when you cannot. The program provides help on a case-by-case basis to people who meet the requirements.”

The program is designed to help recipients afford their basic needs like; food, shelter, medications, basic dental, glasses and funeral costs. As stated by the provincial government of PEI website, “The amount of money you can get depends on how much money you make, how many children you have and if you own your own home or rent.”

UPEI hosted a food insecurity panel discussion on March 13. At this panel, research was discussed that suggests social assistance rates on PEI do not cover the cost of healthy food. Colleen Walton, an Applied Human Science professor at UPEI, conducted a study, to determine the cost of a month of healthy food for a family of four people. Professor Walton found that the average costs for healthy food for a month was $901. Average social assistance allowance is $596, a shortage of $305.

Healthy food is instrumental for a healthy lifestyle and living well. Not being able to afford nutritious food puts people at risk, and increases the demand on the health care system to intervene.

As described the government of PEI website, the Department of PEI Family and Human Services, “supports Islanders in need and helps them to become more self-reliant”.  Some of the priorities in the mandate of this department are:

  • Lead the development of a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy
  • Review and update support programs
  • Ensure that housing supports are meeting current and future needs
  • Participate in the development of a long-term mental health and addictions strategy
  • Work with other departments to ensure that Islanders with the greatest needs are being served

CBC PEI reported that the Department of Family and Human Services is on its fourth year, of a five-year plan to increase social assistance food rates. A discussion paper regarding collected data is to be published by the department in the upcoming months.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.