SIMCOE, FEBRUARY 26, 2014- 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.
The Nutritious Food Basket survey, conducted annually by Health Unit, monitors the cost of a nutritious diet over time. The prices of 67 standard items are collected from six local grocery stores to determine the lowest available price at which an individual or family could have an eating pattern that meets Canada’s Food Guide recommendations.
Results of the 2013 survey revealed the monthly cost of groceries for a family of four living in Haldimand or Norfolk County was $809.88. This figure represents an increase of $10 per month over the previous year, and close to $70 more per month compared to 2011 data.
“Year after year, the results of the survey 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”, stated Kathy Heffer, public health dietitian with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.
A family of four earning a median wage in Ontario spends about 10% of their income on food and another 10% on rent. If that same family was trying to survive on minimum wage or social assistance, they would be spending 30% of their income on food and 30% on rent.
After paying for groceries and rent, the family receiving Ontario Works would have only $587 left per month for the whole family to cover other necessities of life. In the case of a single male on Ontario Works, frequently they are required to spend almost their entire income on rent, and end up with approximately $100 of debt per month after paying only for rent and healthy food.
Both of these scenarios have not yet factored in the cost of all utility bills, transportation, child care, or other necessary monthly expenses. Also, these scenarios only represent some individual’s living situations and do not necessarily account for additional expenses a family or individual may incur, such as needing additional rooms for children of different sexes, requiring an apartment that is wheelchair-accessible, or having special dietary restrictions that increase the cost of their groceries.
“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,” added Heffer. “Hunger has a dramatic impact on health, and to reduce the risk of health problems, we must continue efforts to help ensure that everyone has adequate access to healthy food.”
Heidy Van Dyk, social housing manager with Haldimand-Norfolk’s health & social services department noted that the decision to spend what little money is available on either food or shelter costs is an impossible choice.
“It is completely understandable that an individual or family may decide to use some of their money for food and, as a result, get behind in rent or utilities. Once this happens, it often becomes nearly impossible to get caught up,” explained Van Dyk. “Hunger and homelessness can quickly become a reality if additional supports from family, friends or community agencies and services are not available.”
Kathy Heffer, RD
Public Health Dietitian
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519.426.6170 or 905.318.6623 ext. 3247