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Poverty and hunger still a problem in Haldimand and Norfolk

SIMCOE, JANUARY 20, 2012 – People living on low incomes in Haldimand and Norfolk counties will find it more of a challenge to afford to eat a healthy diet this year.

According to the 2011 Nutritious Food Basket survey, conducted by the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, it costs a family of four $740.73 per month to eat a standard, healthy diet. This figure represents a 2.1 per cent increase from the 2010 survey.

Considering that the total monthly income for that family is only $2,011 if they are on social assistance, once rent and bills are paid, there is little money left over for food. 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,” explained Michelle Saraiva, Public Health Dietitian with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. “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.”

In Ontario, up to 60 per cent of households living on social assistance report a lack of food security. The most recent local data, from 2009, indicates that over 4000 people living in Haldimand and Norfolk lack food security. These facts highlight a critical public health issue that needs to be addressed.

“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,” added Saraiva. “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,” noted Saraiva.

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.

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Media contact:
Michelle Saraiva
Public Health Dietitian
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3237 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623
[email protected]