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News Release

Report indicates low-income families struggle to buy nutritious food

WHITBY, ON October 14, 2015 - Durham Region Health Department’s 2015 Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) report shows that from 2010 to 2015, the cost of a basic healthy diet for a family of four in Durham Region has increased significantly from $702 monthly to $830. This increase makes it difficult for low-income families to afford a nutritionally adequate diet when faced with housing and other fixed expenses.

Last May, the Health Department implemented the provincially-mandated NFB protocol under the direction of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, by surveying the cost of 67 food items in nine grocery stores located throughout Durham Region. Non-food items, prepared foods and restaurant meals are not included in the NFB.

The report found that the cost to purchase groceries for a nutritionally adequate diet, based on recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide, is $191 per week or $830 a month for a family of four, consisting of two parents, ranging in age from 31 to 50-years old, and two children - a boy, 14 to 18-years old, and a girl, four to eight-years old.

“Studies have shown that adults in food insecure households have poorer self-rated health, poorer mental and physical health, poorer oral health, greater stress and are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and anxiety,” explained Deborah Lay, a registered dietitian and public health nutritionist with the Health Department. “For many families in Durham Region, after paying for shelter and other living expenses, there isn’t enough money left over to afford a healthy diet. Food insecurity is a daily challenge for these families.”

Food insecurity is when families worry that food will run out, they have to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of food they eat, or they have to reduce their food intake altogether. While the percentage a family spends on food will vary according to their income, the report found that nine per cent of area households experience some degree of food insecurity. Statistics show that in Durham Region, a family of four earning $6,952 per month - which represents the Ontario monthly after-tax median income - spends 17 per cent of their income to purchasing food. In contrast, for a family of four on social assistance, such as Ontario Works, the percentage of income spent on food spikes to 38 per cent.  When rent is included, a family on Ontario Works is spending 93 per cent of their income on food and shelter, leaving little money for anything else.

An overview of local food insecurity issues can be found in the Health Department’s 2015 Price of Eating Well in Durham Region newsletter. This year, there is a new 2015 Hunger in Durham infographic which shows the latest statistics on the landscape of food insecurity in Durham Region. Information in these resources can be used by residents, community agencies and workplaces to better understand food insecurity issues. To support families in eating well on a limited income, residents can also use the Food Budget Calculator, an online learning resource that also features videos, budget-wise recipes and more. All of these resources can be found at

For ideas on how to get involved in helping to make Durham Region more food secure, or to view a copy of the 2015 Nutritious Food Basket results along with the 2015 Price of Eating Well in Durham Region newsletter and the 2015 Hunger in Durham infographic, visit Information is also available by calling Durham Health Connection Line at 905-666-6241 or 1-800-841-2729. For information on what foods are recommended in the Nutritious Food Basket, visit Health Canada’s website.

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Media inquiries:

The Regional Municipality of Durham:

Alicia Cowan - Health Department, 905-668-7711 ext. 2952 or

If this information is required in an accessible format, please contact the Accessibility Co-ordinator at 1-800-372-1102 extension 2009.

For more information, please contact Health Department.