Toronto Board of Health Calls for Nutrition Allowance


Dr. David McKeown (Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health) is attributed as saying that the poor in Toronto aren’t eating properly because social assistance rates can’t cover both shelter and nutritious meals.

In “Meal subsidy sought for poor” (Toronto Star; 2007/01/30), Donovan Vincent reports that the Toronto Health Board uses a tool called the Nutritious Food Basket, which measures the amount of money needed to buy healthy foods such as rice, chicken, meat and vegetables. “66 specified foods are priced in at least six different grocery stores, including major supermarket chains and independent stores in Toronto. The measurement is based on a provincial method used by every public health unit in the province.”

According to Dr. McKeown, the components of the Food Basket are chosen based upon a premise that “It’s based on purchasing basic food ingredients. You have to have the skills to cook from scratch all of your meals… It’s not a rich diet. It takes no account of any kind of pre-processed or prepared food or eating out. It’s just the basics.”

The article quotes Dr. McKeown as saying that the Toronto Board of Health is asking the Ontario government “to take a different approach to setting social assistance rates: to set them based on the information the province asks us to collect about the cost of healthy eating” and has adopted the position that a nutrition allowance should be built into the basic allowance in social assistance.


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