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ON THE RISE

- Cost Of Healthy Eating Continues to Increase, Making it More Challenging for Some People to Buy Nutritious Food -

With food prices expected to rise again in 2013, a Registered Dietitian worries that some people on low or fixed incomes who already struggle to eat healthy will find it even more difficult.

Her comments come as the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit releases its annual cost of healthy eating. The Health Unit finds an average family of four in this area paid $8.24 more per week in 2012 for a ‘nutritious food basket’ than the previous year. The family of four – made up of a father, mother, teenaged boy, and girl between four and eight years of age – would have paid $179.10 per week in 2012 for the nutritious food basket, up from the $170.86 the same items would have cost in 2011.

“Eight dollars a week does not seem like a big increase, but when you spread the costs out over a month or the entire year, the price to buy healthy food really adds up and takes a larger chunk out of people’s wallets,” says Elsie Azevedo, a Registered Dietitian with the HKPR District Health Unit. “It’s not that local families need to budget better. Rather, there is just not enough money for some families to meet their basic needs.”

Azevedo cites statistics that show families in the lowest income bracket are living on an average annual income of $16,100 per year (Canadian Index of Well-Being). Working full-time at minimum wage also does not provide enough income to raise a family above the poverty line, she adds.

The Health Unit, like other health units in Ontario, 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 Canadians, 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 Northumberland County, Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes last year.

Azevedo says the ability for people to afford healthy eating is worrisome when some local residents are already struggling to make ends meet and a number of food banks in the area have reported a rise in the number of people using their services. She worries the situation is not likely to improve in the New Year.

Azevedo cites a recent University of Guelph report that forecasts food costs will rise between 1.5 to 3.5 per cent in 2013, especially for staples such as meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seafood.

“Eating nutritious foods like fresh vegetables and fruit is important for a healthy lifestyle,” Azevedo says. “It is a real hardship when people have to forgo buying healthy foods in order to pay for rent, clothing, transportation and other necessities. Unfortunately, that is a reality in our community that we need to address.”

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 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.

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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, ext. 218.

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