SIMCOE, January 14, 2015 – It costs 15% more to eat well than it did five years ago, with a 3.5% increase in the past year.
Every year the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit surveys the price of food items across Haldimand and Norfolk using a tool called the Nutritious Food Basket. The cost is determined by pricing 67 food items in six grocery stores across the county and calculating the average lowest retail price. The cost of food and rent is compared to income in seven life scenarios.
“Year after year, the survey continues to show that people living in households with limited income struggle a great deal to pay rent, bills, and to put healthy food on the table”, says Kathy Heffer, a Public Health Dietitian for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.
In 2014, the monthly cost of groceries for a family of four living in Haldimand or Norfolk was $839.41. A family of four earning a median Ontario income spend about 10% of their income on food and another 10% on rent. In comparison, a family of four earning minimum wage or social assistance spends 30 to 40% of their income on food and 30 to 40% on rent.
Little if any money is left over to cover the cost of other basic monthly expenses such as utilities and transportation, which is a large issue in our rural community. In the scenarios, a family of four receiving Ontario Works has just $541 left per month for the whole family to cover other necessities of life. And alarmingly, a single male living on Ontario Works would go into debt after paying for just rent and healthy food.
“When money is tight, it’s often the food budget that gets cut. For many people in households with low income, the choice is not between a generic and name brand product, but rather it is between food and hunger” Heffer notes. “ Diets suffer, which impact people’s health. People go without eating or eat foods of poor nutritional value because they are more affordable.”
Hunger has a dramatic impact on health. To reduce the risk of health problems, we must continue efforts to help ensure that everyone has adequate income to buy healthy food. The Board of Health received a report in January with a request to urge the Ontario government to increase social assistance rates.
For more information, go to www.hnhu.org and read the 2014 The Real Cost of Eating Well in Haldimand & Norfolk Counties summary report.
Kathy Heffer, Public Health Dietitian