Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hunger Clinic Organizing

Activists in Sudbury, me among them, are organizing locally as the Hunger Clinic Organizing Committee in support of the Ontario Common Front campaign to use the special dietary supplement provision in Ontario's welfare regulations to try and increase the social assistance rates of as many people as possible. Increasing numbers of healthcare professionals are affirming the experiences of welfare recipients themselves and recognizing that current social assistance rates are so inadequate that they almost invariably lead to a situation in which recpients' health is at risk. Here is an article published on the front page of today's Sudbury Star...there are details of implication and wording I'd quibble with, but it seems to be pretty good for a mainstream media article on poverty issues.

Activists promote supplement for the poor:
Those on social assistance eligible for special fund

By Carol Mulligan/The Sudbury Star
Local News - Tuesday, September 27, 2005 @ 11:00

Anti-poverty activists are making an end-run around the provincial government in an effort to get more money for food for social assistance recipients.

Groups such as the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, the Ontario Common Front and others are holding clinics to let people know about a special dietary supplement of up to $250 that may be available to those on social assistance.

People on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program could qualify for the supplement if a doctor, dietitian, nurse, nurse practitioner or midwife says they need it to survive.

Amber Negrazis and Alex Paterson are members of the Hunger Clinic Organizing Committee in Sudbury, which plans to hold a clinic on how people may qualify for the supplement.

But first, their committee is taking 15 people from Sudbury to a mass clinic to be held in Toronto on Oct. 3. There are still some spots left for people from Sudbury, but those who don’t make it before the cutoff will be invited to attend a Sudbury Clinic.

Negrazis says making people aware of the special dietary supplement is important, “considering people on welfare do not have enough money to survive.”

Paterson says the dietary supplement is available for people who require an organic diet, who need vitamins, are vegan or vegetarian or require baby food if their children are under-nourished.

That’s all contingent upon a medical professional signing a form confirming those requirements are legitimate.

Sudbury’s Gary Kinsman said there are fears the Ontario government is trying to get rid of the supplement, which most people on social assistance aren’t aware of.

Negrazis said people on welfare “don’t have money to get food — period. If they buy food, they can’t worry about nutrition.”

The Sudbury and District Health Unit reported last week that the cost of feeding a family of four a nutritious diet rose 8.3 per cent this year over last. It now costs $128.73 a week, up from last year’s $118.91, to buy “safe, nutritious and culturally acceptable food,” Dr. Penny Sutcliffe reported last week.

Sutcliffe is medical officer of health and chief executive officer of the health unit.

The Sudbury and District Board of Health directed Sutcliffe to work with food security networks and municipalities to explore initiatives to make sure people can buy the food they need.

Health board chairwoman Janet Gasparini, who is also executive director of the Social Planning Council in Sudbury, urged board members to support efforts to get the supplement for people in Sudbury who need it.

“It’s a provincial initiative, but we’re not going to wait around for the government to change things for us,” said Negrazis.

To sign up for the Toronto clinic next week or the Sudbury clinic, phone XXX-XXXX and leave a message, or e-mail hcoc@riseup.net.

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