The Regional Municipality of Durham

News Release

Rise in food costs increase difficulties for low-income families

WHITBY, ON November 04, 2014

Durham Region Health Department’s 2014 Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) report reveals that the cost of a basic healthy diet in Durham has increased by 11 per cent from 2011. This increase makes it difficult for low-income families to afford a basic healthy 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 basic healthy diet, based on recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide, is $182 per week or $789 a month for a family of four – two parents, ranging in age from 31 to 50-years old, and two children, consisting of a 14-year old boy and an eight-year old girl.

“A healthy diet is essential for proper child growth and development, and in decreasing the risk of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis,” explained Deborah Lay, a public health nutritionist with the Health Department. “For many families in Durham, 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 reality 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 almost eight per cent of area households experience some degree of food insecurity. Statistics shows that in Durham Region, a family of four earning $7,317 per month, the Ontario monthly after-tax median income, spends 11 per cent of their income to purchase food.  In comparison, for a family of four on social assistance, such as Ontario Works, the percentage of income spent on food spikes to 37 per cent.  When rent is included, a family on Ontario Works is spending 92 per cent of their income on food and shelter, leaving little money for anything else.

An overview of local food security issues can be found in the Health Department’s 2014 Price of Eating Well in Durham Region newsletter at Information in this resource can be used by community residents, clients, agencies and workplaces to better understand food security issues. To support families in eating well on a limited income, the site also features a Food Budget Calculator, an online learning resource, videos, budget-wise recipes and a number of other resources.

To view a copy of the 2014 Nutritious Food Basket results, along with the 2014 Price of Eating Well in Durham Region newsletter, 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.

Media inquiries:

The Regional Municipality of Durham:

Glendene Collins – Health Department, 905-668-7711 ext. 2999

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

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For more information, please contact Health Department.