So our government has decided to do away with a key, essential service. The special diet allowance.
The special diet allowance is / was an allowance for folks that have special dietary needs. These are folks with Diabetes, Cancer, Depression, and many more illnesses. Too many to count. People on social assistance were getting extra money to buy the foods that they required in order to live a more healthy life… to try and alleviate some of the issues they faced that went along with their specific illness. For instance, Diabetes can be controlled, in it’s early stages, with a proper diet. That diet is a low sugar diet, which means low carbohydrates. The cycle starts here. If you are on the system, receiving money, you don’t get enough money to buy the healthy food your body needs. As a result you end up eating foods you gather from food banks, or from drop ins and these foods are loaded with carbohydrates, and salt! People need to eat. This diet aggravates the symptoms and the illness, putting the person in higher risk of the next step of Diabetes. Diabetes can be very painful. If you get hurt, you don’t heal properly, and sometimes you have to have parts of your body amputated. A person with Diabetes absolutely must have a good diet, it is detrimental in holding this at bay. If you don’t start out with an illness when you enter into the *system*, you’re pretty likely going to develop one based on the diet you are expected to survive on.
As it turns out, people started to learn of this dietary allowance, and rightfully so – they applied for it. Even if a person is not sick, has no illness, this dietary allowance becomes sort of a beacon in the night as noone on the system has enough money to eat. So good for them for applying and doing what needed to be done in order to survive! If you try to live on $592.00 a month, and that’s got to cover your rent, food, medical needs, transportation, etc, you will soon realize that you cannot do it. What would you be willing to do, to eat? Applying for additional funds is a lesser evil than some choices people are faced with. And a safer choice. So something has to give when there is no money to survive, and in most cases it is food that gets cut from the budget. There is nothing dignified, nor healthy about this choice, but you need a roof over your head. Consider that to rent even one room in Toronto is approximately $450.00 and up – what does that leave you? Either you starve, you eat what you get from food banks, or drop ins, or you apply for this allowance and have some control over your health. Health goes much deeper than Diabetes and all the illnesses that people have to suffer. It affects your energy, your self confidence, your ability to think, to function. Your desire to get out of bed each day. Try to find a job when all you can think of is where your next meal is coming from! Food banks have specific hours and locations that you may or may not be able to make it to. Consider travelling with this food… or the stigma that goes along with visiting a food bank. Think on how each time you enter through the doors of a food bank you feel less of a human, more of a beggar. Then take that food home and try to manage it. In most cases this food has to last you more than a week, but they give you enough food for three days.
Since people have discovered this avenue for filling their tummies the numbers of people applying have obviously gone up. The government has decided that folks are abusing the system, aided by their medical professionals. They point to the auditor general’s December 2009 report, which insinuated that many people who receive support – and their doctors, nurses, and dietitians – are purposely abusing the program although no investigation has been done. The government was also ordered by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to increase allowances for people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity – which are widely known to put people at risk for heart disease – and to add low blood protein to the list of conditions covered.
This is because the Tribunal found that the program was discriminating against people with these conditions. But instead of complying with this order, in the last budget in 2010, the government said they were ending the discrimination by eliminating the program entirely.
The fact that people are on the system to begin with puts them in this category. It makes people sick. Social Assistance makes people sick. Think on it. The government has decided that there is no way all these people can be sick. They created the problem! It’s systemic and it’s not stopping because they will not provide enough money to eat. It’s a cycle. You go on the system, you get sick, you can’t function properly – you are stuck on the system. Even if you get lucky and find a part time job in this economy they take some of that money from you, ensuring that you will not move forward.
The government says that it isn’t cutting the special diet, but it is replacing it with another program. Alright, let’s look at that! No one that is currently on the special diet allowance program is going to be automatically brought into the new program. You must reapply – under new guidelines. The application process is going to go through the ministry of community and social services, as opposed to the social assistance programs that provide these monies right now. So keep that in mind, just because you are on it now, does not mean you are definitely on it with the new program. To top it off, the list of applicable illnesses will be shortened. I suppose if you are not visually, noticeably dying, in their eyes, you don’t get coverage. What do they consider to be worthy enough of being given money to eat? How sick do you have to be in order that they will provide you with necessary healthy diets? It’s a good question. Last, but not least, there are rumors that the amount of money given will be much lower than previously because of where the money is coming from. The government would like us to think that they have to take from one social program in order to support another, when the fact is… the money is there. They just refuse to pay it and they refuse to support this need. More than 44 MPs have agreed that the rates of social assistance are inadequate, but that isn’t budging them. Communities around Ontario are all doing a challenge – it’s called Do the Math Challenge. They are attempting to live off a food bank basket for a week, as someone on assistance would be forced to do. They are blogging their experiences, and going to their governments to tell them. The government says that there is no public support for this need of money for food.
This year, before April, the new papers are being sent out to folks for the new applications to start being filled in and processed. I don’t think they have mentioned yet, or given a specific list of who qualifies to eat, and that’s likely because they know that there will be public outcry and fury over their choices. I imagine the choices they make now would be somewhat different if someone they loved were in this situation, but they aren’t. They have food. They have money to get the medical attention they need in times of illness. They have enough nourishment to prevent illness to begin with.
The government has clearly shown that they agree people need food in order to be productive, contributing, healthy members of society. They have shown this in the fact that they started a program for children to eat at school. These children have parents. Every single person should have food, it’s a basic right, as is shelter. It looks to me like they are just feeding the children to look good…because they starve them as adults. It’s a crime. No one should go hungry in a country as rich as Canada is… nor anywhere else. How can you expect your country to be strong and whole…supportive and functioning at it’s highest levels when you starve them? You would think this is simple, common sense! Everyone doing the math challenge has agreed..well over 1000 people and growing, so what does that say about the people in our government?
The conditions that are expected to be removed from the special diet schedule include:
· allergies to egg
· allergies to soya
· chronic constipation
· cardiovascular disease
· congenital abnormalities of the metabolic type – adults
· congenital abnormalities of the metabolic type – infants & children
· hypertension and CHF and Grade 1 and 2 ventricular function
· macrocytic anemia
· microcytic anemia
· post-gastric surgery
· prediabetes: impaired glucose tolerance
· Kwashikor (weight loss condition)
· Marasmus (weight loss condition)
The conditions that are expected to remain in the special diet schedule include:
· celiac disease
· chronic wounds and burns
· conditions causing unintentional weight loss/body wasting:
– ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – Lou Gehrig’s disease)
– anorexia nervosa
– Crohn’s disease
– congestive heart failure
– cystic fibrosis
– multiple sclerosis
– ostomies (e.g. jejunostomy, ileostomy)
– pancreatic insufficiency
– short bowel syndrome
– ulcerative colitis
· dysphagia requiring thickening liquids
· extreme obesity (BMI > 40)
· food allergy – milk/dairy
· food allergy – wheat
· gestational diabetes
· insufficient lactation to sustain breast-feeding or breast-feeding is contraindicated
· lactose intolerance
· renal failure