Overview of BC Provincial and Federal Nutrition Benefits Programs

Provincial Nutrition Benefits Programs

Preliminary note: Clients are eligible for only one of the following: Diet Supplements, Short-term Nutritional Supplements, or the diet portion of the Monthly Nutritional Supplement. They cannot receive more than one benefit.

Diet Supplements

Policy: Diet Supplements - Social Development

Clients receiving income assistance or disability assistance are eligible for a monetary allowance to compensate for the additional costs of adhering to special diets.

Clients with diabetes, cystic fibrosis and those receiving kidney dialysis may be eligible for a diet supplement. Amounts are as follows:

  • Diabetes - maximum $35/month
  • Cystic fibrosis - maximum $50/month
  • Kidney dialysis - maximum $30/month

Clients may also be eligible if they are required to follow an unusually expensive therapeutic diet. Eligible diets are sodium-restricted, glutenfree, ketogenic and modifications for phenylketonuria (PKU) or dysphagia. Amounts are as follows:

  • Sodium-restricted diet - maximum $10/month
  • Gluten-free diet - maximum $40/month
  • Dysphagia diet - maximum $40/month plus $30 toward purchase of a blender
  • Ketogenic diet - maximum $40/month
  • PKU diet - maximum $40/month
  • High protein diet* - maximum $40/month plus $30 toward purchase of a blender

* Clients needing diet supplements for a high protein diet must have a diagnosis of one of the following: cancer requiring nutritional support during radiation, chemotherapy, surgical cancer therapy or ongoing medical treatment; chronic inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's, Ulcerative Colitis); HIV/AIDS; chronic bacterial infection; tuberculosis; hyperthyroidism; osteoporosis; or hepatitis B or C.

Notes: If a person has more than one of the above medical conditions, the person may receive only the amount of the highest diet benefit for which he/she is eligible.

To apply for this benefit, written confirmation must be provided by a physician, nurse practitioner or registered dietitian. The documentation must include: the specific medical condition, the diet required, and the expected duration of need. This information must then be sent to the client's Employment and Income Assistance Office, which they should be familiar with for income or disability assistance.

Reference: Health Supplements and Programs Rate Table, Health Supplements and Programs Rate Tables - Ministry of Social Development, accessed May 21, 2014.

Short Term Nutritional Supplements

Policy: Nutritional Supplements - Social Development

Clients receiving income assistance or disability assistance are eligible for up to 3 months of caloric supplementation (for example, Boost® or Ensure®) for themselves or a dependant child to prevent critical weight loss while recovering from surgery, a severe injury, a serious disease, or side effects of a medical treatment.

Nutritional supplements are not provided where they would be used as a foodreplacement.

Note: To apply for this benefit: Written confirmation must be given by a physician or nurse practitioner. The documentation must include: the diagnosis and reason the product is required, the name of the product required, the amount of product required, a price quote for the product, and the expected duration of need (up to a maximum of 3 months). This information must then be sent to the client's Employment and Income Assistance Office, which they should be familiar with for income or disability assistance.

Monthly Nutritional Supplement (MNS)

Policy: Monthly Nutritional Supplement (MNS) - Social Development

Clients with a Persons with Disabilities (PWD) designation who are receiving disability assistance are eligible for the monthly nutritional supplement when a physician or nurse practitioner confirms, in writing, all of the following:

  1. The person has a severe medical condition causing a chronic, progressive deterioration of health, and
  2. As a result of this deterioration of health, the client displays two or more of the following symptoms: malnutrition, underweight status, significant weight loss, significant muscle mass loss, significant neurological degeneration, significant deterioration of a vital organ, or moderate to severe immune suppression, and
  3. To alleviate these symptoms, the client requires one or both of the following: additional nutritional items that are part of a caloric supplementation to a regular dietary intake, and/or vitamins and minerals, and
  4. Failure to obtain these items will result in imminent danger to the person's life.

An eligible client will receive as follows:

  • Additional food to supplement a regular diet - maximum $165/month
  • Vitamins and minerals - maximum $40/month

An MNS will only be provided if the client's family unit is not able to provide the items.

Receipt of the MNS additional food items makes clients ineligible to receive any other diet supplements or the short-term nutritional supplement. However, a client who is in receipt of the MNS vitamins and minerals is still eligible for the diet supplement or short-term nutritional supplement.

Reference: Health Supplements and Programs Rate Table, Health Supplements and Programs Rate Tables - Ministry of Social Development, accessed May 21, 2014.

Natal Supplement

Policy: Natal Supplement - Social Development

Pregnant women income assistance and families with infants up to 7 months are eligible for a natal supplement. The supplement may be used to purchase items such as nutritious food, as well as clothing and baby equipment. Amounts are as follows:

  • $45 per month for single pregnancy or birth
  • $90 per month for multiple pregnancy or birth

Notes: Clients are eligible for natal supplement from the time pregnancy is confirmed to 6 months post partum. (Apply early as the benefit is not retroactive).

To apply for this benefit: Written documentation from a physician, nurse practitioner or midwife must be sent to the client's Employment and Income Assistance Office. Documentation must include: confirmation of pregnancy and expected date of delivery.

Reference: Health Supplements and Programs Rate Table, Health Supplements and Programs Rate Tables - Ministry of Social Development accessed May 21, 2014.

Infant Formula

Policy: Nutritional Supplements - Social Development

Clients receiving income assistance or disability assistance are eligible for:

  • specialized infant formula for their infant who has a medical condition that requires specialized formula to treat the condition, or
  • regular infant formula during the child's first 12 months, if the infant is at risk from contracting a disease through breastfeeding.

Note: To apply for this benefit: Written confirmation must be given by a physician or nurse practitioner. The documentation must include: the name of the product required, the amount of product required, and the expected duration of need. This information must then be sent to the client's Employment and Income Assistance Office, which they should be familiar with for income or disability assistance.

Tube Feed Supplement

Policy: Tube Feed Supplement - Social Development and Social Innovation

Clients receiving income assistance or disability assistance are eligible to receive a tube feed supplement if they are unable to take food orally or process it through the gastrointestinal system. The supplement can be provided for acute short-term or chronic long-term conditions.

Notes:

To apply for this benefit, written confirmation must be provided by a physician, nurse practitioner or registered dietitian. The documentation must include: that the person's primary source of nutrition must be obtained through tube feeding; the type of nutritional product required; the daily or monthly quantity of nutritional product required; the expected duration of the condition requiring tube feeding; and the needed tube feeding supplies or equipment.

Someone receiving the tube feeding supplement is not eligible to receive any other nutrition-related supplement.

Federal Nutrition Benefits Programs

Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) Nutrition Benefits

Policy: Veterans Independence Program - Veterans Affairs Canada

Veterans may be eligible for coverage of tube feeding supplies and formula or caloric supplementation with oral nutritional supplements depending on the client's level of coverage. Eligibility criteria differs according to veteran classification and eligibility is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Clients will require a letter describing their medical condition and nutrition needs signed by their physician as well as a written prescription for the required nutrition supplements and supplies. The letter must include the client's "K number" from their VAC Health Identification card. Clients must bring both the letter and prescription to their pharmacy where the pharmacist will fax the information directly to the VAC Treatment Authorization Centre for review and approval. Pharmacists and doctors can contact the VAC Treatment Authorization Centre at 1-866-811-6060 for more information.

First Nations Health Authority Health Benefits Program

This new program replaces Health Canada's Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program. The program continues to provide the same coverage as NIHB for medically necessary goods and services to which all First Nations people that are residents of B.C. and have a status number are not entitled through other plans and programs. The program is undergoing changes that may see increased coverage in the future.

Currently, coverage can be submitted for: prescription drugs, medical supplies and equipment, vision and eye care, medical transportation, dental/orthodontic benefits and crisis intervention.

For more information, visit First Nations Health Authority, call 1-855-550-5454, or email HealthBenefits@fnha.ca.

In person inquiries can be made at 1166 Alberni St, Room 701, Vancouver B.C.

Additional Resources

Ministry of Housing and Social Development

This resource was adapted in January 2009 from a resource developed by registered dietitians at the Vancouver Island Health Authority and updated by Dietitian Services at HealthLinkBC in July 2014.

Last updated: October 2015


These resources are provided as sources of additional information believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of publication and should not be considered an endorsement of any information, service, product or company.

Distributed by:

Dietitian Services at HealthLinkBC (formerly Dial-A-Dietitian), providing free nutrition information and resources for BC residents and health professionals. Go to Healthy Eating or call 8-1-1 (anywhere in BC). Interpreters are available in over 130 languages.

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