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Charlottetown woman says province needs to address food insecurity

Crystal Kennedy of Charlottetown, who weighs only 90 pounds, says the province needs to do more to address food insecurity in P.E.I.
Crystal Kennedy of Charlottetown, who weighs only 90 pounds, says the province needs to do more to address food insecurity in P.E.I. - Jim Day

Resident who weighs 90 pounds says province could save money and still allow her to buy more food

A Charlottetown woman on social assistance who gets $400 worth of Boost every month wonders why she can’t convert some of the liquid drink vouchers into dollars for groceries.

Crystal Kennedy, 34, stands about five feet, two inches tall and weighs a mere 90 pounds.

Kennedy has seen her weight plummet by roughly 30 pounds since being diagnosed about two years ago with fibromyalgia, which causes fatigue and chronic muscle pain.

She has been on social assistance for seven years.

For the past two years, the government has been picking up the tab for Boost nutrition drinks that were prescribed by Kennedy’s doctor.

The drink, Kennedy stresses, is not the answer to her bony physique. She simply cannot stomach Boost.

She drank a good deal of the product over the past two years, but her body kept rejecting it.

Crystal Kennedy of Charlottetown, who weighs only 90 pounds, says the province needs to do more to address food insecurity in P.E.I.
Crystal Kennedy of Charlottetown, who weighs only 90 pounds, says the province needs to do more to address food insecurity in P.E.I.

After all the money she has left paying for her other living expenses, she doesn’t have much left for food.

That leaves her eating “very little, mostly white rice and oatmeal and occasionally bananas,’’ she explains.

Kennedy says she could put on weight if the government would provide her with another $200 a month to spend on food and tear up the laminated card that allows her to receive about $400-worth of Boost monthly from a pharmacy.

She says she could buy far more food while the province saves $200 per month.

“Doesn’t that sound logical?’’ she asks rhetorically.

Perhaps, but such an adjustment would fly in the face of social assistance policy in the province.

Mark Spidel, director of social programs with the Department of Family and Human Services, is not able to talk specifically about Kennedy’s case.

However, he says, in general, clients cannot transfer prescriptions into additional food budget or any other financial assistance.

Spidel says the food budget allotment is based on family size and make-up. A special diet policy is currently under review to determine rates for such things as a diabetic diet.

He notes social assistance clients can choose what food they purchase with their financial assistance.

He adds the province is increasing the food allocation budget by $420,000 on Nov. 1.

Kennedy does not anticipate the hike resulting in her being able to purchase significantly more groceries.

“I just want (government) to give me food instead of Boost drinks,’’ she says. “No one should have to live off a liquid replacement.’’

Kennedy adds she wants the province to “better address food insecurity for people in my situation”.

Spidel notes part of the province’s Poverty Reduction Action Plan is to determine how to better address food insecurity.

Changes announced earlier this month will allow those on social assistance to earn more income without having their benefits reduced and will exempt child support payments from being clawed back.

The changes will also extend medical, dental and optical benefits by up to 24 months after individuals begin a new job and will initiate a new assistance fund to allow people to buy new clothes for job interviews.

“We know that any increase in rates provides a better outcome for clients,’’ says Spidel.

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