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Lean Times

In Toronto's expensive rental market, welfare doesn't cover cost of a nutritional diet, study finds

A nutritional diet – as defined by the Ontario government’s standards – is out of reach for Toronto’s welfare recipients, according to a U of T study published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health. “This speaks to the need for a review of welfare benefit levels and housing policies to ensure that people on these programs are not put at risk,” says Prof. Valerie Tarasuk of nutritional sciences. Tarasuk, former senior tutor Barbara Davis and medical student Nicholas Vozoris compared welfare incomes for three hypothetical households with costs for food, shelter and other essentials. They found that in Toronto’s rental market, welfare was inadequate to cover expenses for a single-person household and a two-parent, two-child family; it also barely covered expenses for a single-parent, two-child family. They also discovered that even in rent-geared-to-income housing, single welfare recipients still could not afford nutritious food. The study’s food expenses were based on the Ontario Nutritious Food Basket, which reflects food purchasing patterns, nutrition recommendations and moderate pricing.

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