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STICKER SHOCK

- Healthy Eating Costs Continue To Rise Locally, Making It Difficult For People to Make Ends Meet: Health Unit -

The cost of healthy eating continues to rise in 2014, putting the health of some local residents at risk, warns the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

Some low-income families do not have enough money to buy healthy food once other necessities such as rent, utilities, clothing and transportation are paid, notes Elsie Azevedo Perry, a Registered Dietitian with the HKPR District Health Unit. “If people cannot afford to eat healthy foods, their overall health is often affected,” she says. “They may be more prone to chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as depression and distress.”

The Health Unit measured the cost of healthy eating in 2014 for Northumberland County, Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes using a tool called the Nutritious Food Basket Survey. 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 local grocery stores earlier this year.

In 2014, the Health Unit found the cost to feed a family of four (father, mother, teenaged boy and girl between the ages of four and eight) was $190.37 per week, an increase of $3.78 per week from 2013. For a single parent with a young boy, the cost of a Nutritious Food Basket was $76.88 per week. That is an increase of $1.16 per week from 2013. 

“The weekly increase in food costs may not seem like a lot, but once it’s spread out over an entire year, it can make it difficult for people on limited incomes or people living paycheque to paycheque to make ends meet,” Azevedo Perry says.

Typically, as the price of healthy eating increases, so will the costs associated with transportation, rent, utilities and other basic necessities. Says Azevedo Perry: “Then the situation is even worse, since someone who relies on social assistance or minimum wage may not see their income keeping pace with their overall living costs. Tough decisions need to be made, and purchasing healthy food may not be seen as important as paying other bills.”

In the spirit of the holiday season, local residents are encouraged to donate healthy food items, warm clothing, toys or other essential household items that help families in need. Gifts of money or volunteer time are also welcomed.

People can also rethink health and help reduce local poverty. “Health is about more than health care,” says Azevedo Perry. “Our health is also connected to where we live, the opportunities we have, the choices we make, and the decisions made by our government.” To that end, she urges people to lobby their municipal leaders to consider poverty-reduction strategies that help build a healthier community and address the root causes of poverty such as income security and affordable housing. Municipal governments play a significant role, as many of the decisions they make and the programs and services provided can affect the well-being of residents.

For more information, contact the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577 or visit www.hkpr.on.ca under the ‘Adults/Rethink Health’ section for practical ways that residents and municipal leaders can create a healthier community.

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For media inquiries, contact:

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

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