SIMCOE, OCTBOER 24, 2012 – People living on low incomes in Haldimand and Norfolk Counties will continue to find it challenging to afford to eat a healthy diet this year.
According to the 2012 Nutritious Food Basket survey conducted by the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, it costs a family of four $799.88 per month to eat a standard, healthy diet. This figure represents an alarming eight per cent increase from the 2011 survey, one of the largest annual increases in local Nutritious Food Basket history. In comparison, the previous report revealed a 2.1 per cent increase in nutritious food costs from 2010 to 2011.
Laura Tousaw, a Public Health Dietitian with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit noted that the large jump this year will put added pressure on the local families struggling to afford healthy food.
“The survey results confirm that people with a low income simply do not have adequate funds to afford healthy eating after paying for other essentials, such as rent, transportation and childcare,” said Tousaw. “This fact raises serious concerns about poverty, hunger and food security.”
A person or family is considered ‘food secure’ when they have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food that is personally and culturally acceptable and they do not live in fear of hunger or starvation. Considering that the total monthly income for that family is only $2,032 if they are on social assistance, once rent and bills are paid, there is little money left over for food.
The most recent local data, from 2009, indicates that over 2,337 households in Haldimand and Norfolk lack food security. In Ontario, up to 60 per cent of households living on social assistance report a lack of food security. These numbers highlight a critical public health issue that does not always receive attention.
“Poor nutrition leads to increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as conditions such as low birth weight,” explained Tousaw. “Ensuring people are financially able to purchase adequate and nutritious food is a key step in preventing these diseases and also helping reduce healthcare costs.”
The problem of food insecurity, and the associated increased risk of chronic disease, is not exclusive to those living on social assistance. Those working minimum wage or low-paying jobs also are at risk, as approximately 55 per cent of all Ontarians who experienced a lack of food security reported employment income.
“Access to adequate, healthy food is a basic need that obviously a large number of Canadian families are struggling to meet,” added Tousaw.
The Nutritious Food Basket survey, conducted annually by Health Unit, is a tool for monitoring the cost of a nutritious diet for individuals and families over time. The prices of 67 standard items are collected from six local grocery stores to determine the lowest available price at which a family could have an eating pattern that meets Canada’s Food Guide recommendations.
Public Health Dietitian
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3247 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623