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A STEEP PRICE TO PAY

- Community Encouraged to Take Food Action and Help Ensure Everyone Can Afford to Eat Nutritious Foods -

At a time of year when many families are gearing up to celebrate Thanksgiving with a big dinner, many local residents may find it a challenge to enjoy any kind of feast.

For some people who are on low or fixed incomes, being able to afford healthy food is a constant challenge once they pay for other necessities such as rent, clothing, transportation and utility costs. The situation is only getting worse as social assistance and minimum wage remain at fixed rates and other costs continue to rise, says a local health official.

“The cupboards are bare for a lot of people in our community, and the problem is only magnified during holidays like Thanksgiving,” says Elsie Azevedo, a Registered Dietitian with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. “It’s not that these individuals need to budget better. Rather, there is just not enough money to meet basic needs, meaning some of them will go without healthy food in order to pay for other essentials.”

The point is illustrated in newly-released figures from the Health Unit that detail the cost of healthy eating in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. The Health Unit finds an average family of four in this area pays $186.59 per week in 2013 for a Nutritious Food Basket  . The family of four – made up of a father, mother, a teenage boy, and girl between four and eight years of age – now pays $15.73 more per week for the same basket of items than it did in 2011.

Like other health units in Ontario, the HKPR District Health Unit prices out the nutritious food basket every year to determine the cost of healthy eating in its area. The basket consists of 67 food items that are nutritious and commonly purchased by Ontarians, but excludes other essentials such as cleaning products, diapers, toilet paper and personal care items. Health Unit staff priced items in the nutritious food basket at several grocery stores in its region earlier this year.

The jump in healthy eating costs may not seem like a lot, Azevedo says, until the increase is spread out over a month or year. “Then you realize how healthy eating can be out of reach for some people,” she says. ”If you are living on limited income, nutrition may not be at the top of the list when you are trying to pay the rent and get winter clothes for your child.”

The Health Unit encourages local residents and community leaders to get involved in poverty-reduction efforts that break down barriers to healthy eating in the community. People are asked to visit the Health Unit’s Rethink Poverty: Change Minds, Change Lives website to find out about the scope of the poverty problem in this area and what they can do as individuals or groups to address the problem. People can also call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577 to find out more information.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Azevedo encourages local residents to donate food, clothing, toys or other household items to agencies that help families in need. Gifts of money or volunteer time to these agencies would also be welcomed.

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For media inquiries, contact:

Elsie Azevedo, Registered Dietitian, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100, ext. 218, or toll-free: 1-866-888-4577.

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