Each year, the Perth District Health Unit completes a Nutritious Food Basket survey to monitor affordability of food in the region. Six local grocery stores are visited to find the average total cost of 67 basic food items, such as vegetables, fruit, meat, bread, eggs, and milk.
In 2016, the cost of food for a family of four was $210.51 per week, or $911.51 per month. Although this is similar to the cost from 2015, it is an increase of $15.97 per week from 2014.
According to Natalee Ridgeway, Registered Dietitian at the Perth District Health Unit, “Food prices significantly impact people living on low-incomes or those with unstable or low paying jobs. When you factor in the cost of food and rent, we see that there’s very little, if anything, left for all other expenses like transportation, hydro, clothing, and child care.” For example, a family of four living on Ontario Works would have just $319 per month for all other expenses after paying rent and purchasing food. “People simply can’t afford to purchase healthy food. They may skip meals, purchase cheaper, poor quality foods, or turn to food banks or meal programs to make ends meet” says Ridgeway.
Food insecurity is linked to difficulty learning and reduced productivity at school or work, poorer mental health, and higher rates of chronic disease like diabetes and heart disease.
“At the root of food insecurity is inadequate incomes”, says Ridgeway. The Perth District Health Unit and its Board of Health, along with a number of other health units in the province have advocated for the government to adopt an income response to address food insecurity. The Ontario government is currently exploring a basic income guarantee pilot project for 2017.
What can you do to help?
– Volunteer to support local programs, such as community meals, food banks, the Local Community Food Centre, and school nutrition programs.
– Donate a variety of non-perishable food, toiletry items, or money to food banks on a regular basis
– Support the local economy by buying local food and products
– Talk to others and local politicians about issues of poverty and hunger in our community