Health unit survey: cost of living limits basic healthy foods on the table

'One in six households are experiencing some level of food insecurity'

The cost of living is impacting the amount of basic healthy food on the tables of residents, says the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU).

The health unit’s 2022 Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) survey – used to measure how much it costs those in the region to purchase a basic healthy diet – showed that the cost of basic groceries for the month is $1159.92 for a family of four (two adults and two children) and $419 for a single-person household.

The SMDHU says it’s difficult to purchase healthier foods when people need to use a large portion of their income for rent or mortgage payments.

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According to them, a family of four with one full-time earner making minimum wage is spending 66 per cent of their income on food and rent, while a single adult living alone on Ontario Works is spending 161 per cent.

“When people have no other option but to cut their food budget to pay for other essential fixed-expenses, they are experiencing household food insecurity,” said Vanessa Hurley, public health nutritionist and registered dietitian, in a release. “The struggle to put food on the table is real for many of our residents – one in six households are experiencing some level of food insecurity.

“Without access to nutritious foods, people may begin to experience negative health outcomes that can last a long time and even a lifetime.”

The health unit says it’s a domino effect. Those living with household food insecurity are more likely to have poor physical and mental health, which then places stress on the health-care system.

Statistics Canada released the country’s annual inflation rate on Tuesday, it slowed a bit to 5.9 per cent in January. Though, grocery prices were up 11.4 per cent compared with a year ago. Prices for meat, bakery goods, and vegetables were all up.

Hurley says policies and programs that reduce poverty and help people afford basic healthy food and the cost of living are needed at all levels of government.

“This includes increased social assistance rates, jobs that pay a living wage, and more affordable housing options in our communities,” said Hurley. “We need to reduce household insecurity rates in our communities – it affects us all and we all have a role to play”. 

More details about food insecurity can be found here and on the health unit’s website.

– With files from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and The Canadian Press

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