Cost of Healthy Eating Remains Out of Reach for Many People in the Tri-County Area, Health Unit Finds


New year, same result

That in a nutshell describes the ongoing challenges many families in Northumberland County, Haliburton County, and the City of Kawartha Lakes face to pay for healthy food. In its annual pricing for a Nutritious Food Basket in this area, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit estimates an average family of four (two adults, a teen and child) would’ve had to spend nearly $875 per month to eat healthy in 2019. The Nutritious Food Basket consists of more than 60 food items that are nutritious and commonly purchased by people. Items not included in the ‘basket’ are essentials like soap, toilet paper, toothpaste and personal care products.

While the 2019 costing for a nutritious food basket is similar to prices in 2017 and 2018, increases in other monthly expenses such as housing and transportation mean people are struggling to put healthy food on the table, says Sarah Tsang, a Registered Dietitian and Health Equity Coordinator with the local Health Unit.

“People are not making enough money, whether they rely on social assistance or work in minimum-wage jobs,” she says. “This means families must decide if they will buy healthy foods or pay for other basics like rent. Children who live in poverty will pay the price in the long run. We know that not having enough food – or the fear of not having enough – may lead to more anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.”

A recent study shows that many low-income families who cannot afford to eat healthy food work in full- or part-time jobs. Feed Ontario’s Hunger Report 2019 found a 27 per cent increase over the past three years in the number of adults who are working and using food banks.

While food banks, emergency meal programs, and other programs do an excellent job to provide some relief in the short term to address the problem, they are not long-term solutions, Tsang notes. “We forget that food banks were only supposed to be temporary solutions,” she says. “What we really need is to find a long-term solution to food insecurity and poverty.”

Food insecurity is when people do not have enough money to buy food to adequately feed themselves. The problem can only be addressed when people earn enough money, says Tsang. “We need income solutions, such as creating jobs that provide living wages and benefits, increasing social assistance rates that reflect the true costs of living, and setting up a basic income guarantee in Canada,” she adds. “Ensuring there is more adequate and affordable housing will also help.”

With food prices expected to rise again in 2020, local residents are encouraged to find out more about the issue, including the need for a living wage and other income solutions. To do so, they can visit the No Money For Food… is Cent$less campaign website.


For media inquiries, contact:

Sarah Tsang, Registered Dietitian and Health Equity Coordinator, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577, ext. 1497