Durham Region Health Department said a new report shows that some families in Durham Region do not have enough money to afford a healthy diet.
The 2022 Price of Eating Well in Durham Region report found that more than 15 per cent of households are food insecure – meaning they are either worried about running out of food, settled for lower quality foods, or missed meals altogether.
The price of a basic healthy diet for a family of four in Durham Region in June last year, was $246 per week or $1,067 each month, showed the report.
Since then, inflation has impacted further on residents’ wallets. Reports say demand at food banks is growing. Unfortunately, food banks are reporting that donations are dropping.
Research shows that food insecurity poses serious health risks for individuals, including higher rates of diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and a disproportionately higher use of health care services, said the report.
Food affordability is monitored by surveying the cost of 61 nutritious foods from local grocery stores using the National Nutritious Food Basket as a guide. The food basket contains a variety of foods that are consistent with Canada’s new food guide and are commonly consumed by Canadians including, fruit, vegetables, protein, and whole grains.
Urgent need to address issue
“For some families in Durham Region, being unable to buy nutritious food is a reality. Households living with low incomes struggle to pay for housing and bills and are often forced to give up healthy food choices to pay for other expenses,” said Deborah Lay, a registered dietitian and public health nutritionist with Durham Health. “There’s an urgent need to address the economic barriers that people living with low incomes experience in accessing a nutritious diet.”
The report said food insecurity is closely linked to income – with a lower household income, the risk of food insecurity increases. Of Ontario’s food insecure households, 60 per cent have employment as a main source of income, compared to 15 per cent of households who receive social assistance as a main source of income. A family of four with two children whose source of income is Ontario Works can expect to pay 95 per cent of their income on rent and food, leaving only $139 for all other monthly expenses. The amount of household spending on food and shelter is roughly four times greater for those at the lowest income level, compared to those within the Ontario median income.
Visit durham.ca/FoodPoverty to learn more about the impact of food insecurity on public health.