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Nutritious food unaffordable for many living in Simcoe Muskoka

Jan 15, 2024
SIMCOE MUSKOKA – With the dramatic increase in the cost of living and the steep rise in food prices, the results of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s (SMDHU) 2023 Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) survey show that many residents cannot afford to put nutritious food on the table.

SIMCOE MUSKOKA – With the dramatic increase in the cost of living and the steep rise in food prices, the results of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s (SMDHU) 2023 Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) survey show that many residents cannot afford to put nutritious food on the table.

Conducted annually, the NFB survey is a tool used to monitor food affordability and measure how much it costs for residents throughout Simcoe Muskoka to purchase basic nutritious food. The 2023 survey showed that it costs $1225.74 for a family of four (two adults and two children) and $445.95 for a single-person household to buy basic nutritious groceries for the month. The cost of the nutritious food basket increased by five percent from 2022 to 2023.

The cost of food is an issue that affects everyone, but household food insecurity, the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints, is worsening and people with lower incomes are impacted the most. The experience of household food insecurity can range from concerns about running out of food before there is money to buy more, to the inability to afford a balanced diet, to going hungry, missing meals, and in extreme cases, not eating for whole days because of a lack of food and money for food. When people are short of money, they are unable to consistently afford nutritious foods, which can impact their health in the short and long-term.

For many individuals and families living with lower incomes, the cost of nutritious food and rent uses most or all of their income. A family of four receiving income from Ontario Works is spending 96 percent of their income on food and rent, and a single adult living alone on Ontario Works is spending 162 percent of their income, with no money left over for non-negotiable living expenses like utilities, transportation or child care.

 “With one in five households in Simcoe Muskoka experiencing some level of household food insecurity, the struggle to put food on the table is real for many of our residents,” says Vanessa Hurley, public health nutritionist and registered dietitian. “We know that many people are having to cut their food budget to pay for other essential fixed expenses. Without access to nutritious foods, people will begin to experience negative health outcomes that can last a long time and even a lifetime.”

Household food insecurity is a serious public health issue. Individuals living with household food insecurity are more likely to suffer from poor physical and mental health, diabetes, hypertension, and depression; for children, they are more likely to develop asthma and mental health conditions. The effects of food insecurity on the mental and physical health of residents places a substantial burden on the health-care system, resulting in increased costs that impact everyone.

“Tackling household food insecurity is complex and requires effective income-based solutions,” says Hurley. “Policies and programs to help people afford basic nutritious food and the cost of living are needed from all levels of government, including increased social assistance rates indexed to inflation, jobs with livable wages and benefits, a basic income and more affordable housing options in our communities.”

For more details about the NFB survey, the issue of food insecurity and how it can be addressed please visit the health unit’s website at smdhu.org or call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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