The Cost of Eating Well – Food Insecurity

Canada’s Food Price Report 2019 is bringing a lump of coal to Canadians this Christmas. The recently released report predicts price increases next year in every food category except meat and seafood. The average Canadian family is expected to spend an extra $411 on food in 2019.

In Grey Bruce, the annual Nutritious Food Basket survey recognizes the local cost to eat well. Measuring the true cost of food in local stores, the 2018 survey identifies that a family of four requires $204.16 each week to meet basic food needs. The Cost of Eating Well – Food Insecurity Infographic (attached) highlights food costs associated with various individuals and families.

Those kinds of costs puts some Grey Bruce residents at risk of being food insecure. Food insecurity occurs when a household cannot afford enough or the right types of food. One in five children across Grey County and Bruce County live in a low income household, while 6.5% of households sometimes or often run out of food before they can afford to buy more. Food insecure households face difficult choices every day. Food or rent? Heat or clothing?

Food insecurity is a significant health concern. Individuals who cannot afford nutritious food are more likely to have chronic diseases such as some cancers, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. They are more likely to develop mental health problems like depression, social exclusion and anxiety. Food insecurity is also associated with suicidal thoughts in adolescents and young adults. Health care costs are 23-121% higher in food insecure households, with costs increasing with severity of food insecurity experienced.

Traditional food charity cannot address the root cause of household food insecurity: poverty. There is a need for change. The solution lies in an income response that include access to safe and affordable housing. Providing individuals with the resources and tools they need to be healthy will reduce the strain put on our healthcare system, creating an investment in our community’s future.

Recent policy changes, such as the cancellation of the basic income pilot, have raised concern for the integrity of Ontario’s social safety net. The Board of Health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit supports the position that household food insecurity is a serious public health issue and that an income response is required to address food insecurity effectively.