Low Income Families Cannot Afford Basic Healthy Food

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Findings from the 2008 Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) Report, released by the County of Lambton Community Health Services Department, indicate that low-income residents in Lambton have trouble paying for food after housing and other fixed costs are paid.

The 2008 NFB Report found that it cost a Lambton County family of four (two parents, two children), $134.78 per week or $539.12 per month to purchase groceries for a nutritionally adequate diet. Since 2000, food prices have increased 25.6%.

Simone Edginton, Registered Dietitian with the Community Health Services Department (CHSD), says "Poor nutrition can increase the risk for chronic and infectious diseases, pregnancy outcomes with greater risk for low birth weight and negatively impact the growth and development of children. It costs more to treat and manage these conditions. Prevention begins by ensuring people are financially able to purchase an adequate and nourishing diet."

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In June, dietitians from CHSD visited eight Lambton grocery stores and recorded the lowest cost of 66 food items identified by Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The list reflects nutrition recommendations and food purchasing patterns of Canadians and includes foods from the four (4) food groups of Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide. Non-food items like toiletries or cleaning products, prepared foods and restaurant meals, are not included in the calculation.

Edginton says Lambton's NFB was used to analyze the living costs of a single mother with a seven-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, with a monthly family income of $1,665. After deducting $686 for shelter and $375 for nutritious food, only $604 was left to cover all other monthly needs, such as hydro, heat, phone, transportation, clothes, school supplies, personal hygiene supplies and non-prescription medications.

"Families in this situation often pay the rent and necessary bills, rarely leaving enough money for nutritious food," she said. "This situation is called 'food insecurity' and results in poor nutrition and stress about getting enough food to eat."

In 2004, 8.4% of Ontarians experienced some degree of food insecurity - worrying about having enough food to eat, running short on food and parents going hungry so children had enough to eat.

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