GUELPH – It costs an average family of four $210 a week to eat healthy in Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph, according to a recent public health survey.
The recently-released Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) annual Nutritious Food Basket survey report estimates basic food costs for an individual or a family.
The report shows that a family of four – consisting of a man and woman between the ages of 31 and 50, a boy aged 14 to 18, and a girl aged four to eight – would need to spend $210 each week, or about $840 a month, to eat healthy.
While this cost is down 0.8 per cent from 2017, when it was $917 per month, it is up 27% from the 2009 cost of $723 a month.
For a median family in Ontario, 12% of their income is required to purchase the items in the Nutritional Food Basket, while 15% goes toward rent.
For a family on Ontario Works those numbers rise dramatically, with 35% of their income required for the food basket and 46% for rent.
A single person on Ontario Works is least likely to be able to afford the items in the basket. About 93% of their income goes to rent while 38% would be needed to purchase the basket.
“This is concerning given local statistics which indicate that the average number of monthly Ontario Works cases in Wellington County in 2017 was 2,068,” the report states.
“Increases to social assistance benefits, such as the Canada Child Benefit, help to offset some of the costs of food and housing.
“While the cost of the Nutritious Food Basket as a percentage of income has decreased over the past five years, nutritious food remains unaffordable for households on social assistance.”
The report states food insecurity means key nutrients are missing from an individual’s diet, which can lead to a variety of negative physical and mental health outcomes.
“Having economic and physical access to healthy food is vital to eating well, which in turn plays an important role in an individual’s health at any stage of life,” the report says.
“Improving incomes is the most important response to food insecurity.”
According to WDGPH:
– 5% of the population is marginally food insecure (3% provincially), meaning they worry about running out of food or limit food selection;
– 6% of the population is moderately food insecure (6% provincially), compromising the quantity/quality of food; and
– 3% are severely food insecure (4% provincially), missing meals, reducing food intake and can go without food.
In total 14% of the households in Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph experience food insecurity compared to 12% provincially.
“Households with low incomes are particularly at risk of not being able to afford healthy food,” the report concludes.
“Local, provincial and federal governments should continue to address food insecurity with a focus on income-based solutions rather than food-based solutions.
“This will require policy changes to support income adequacy and address the factors that limit food purchasing.”
The Nutritious Food Basket survey was conducted in May 2018 by a public health nutritionist and trained volunteer. They went to seven grocery stores, both chain and independent, and assessed costs according to the 2010 Nutritious Food Basket Guidance document.
Some of the items included in the basket are: 2% milk, cheese, yogourt, eggs, chicken, ham, beef, pork, fish, beans, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables, whole grain/whole wheat products, non-whole grain products, fats and oils.