The Regional Municipality of Durham

News Release

2016 report indicates low-income families in Durham Region continue to struggle to buy nutritious food

WHITBY, ON December 01, 2016 - Durham Region Health Department’s 2016 Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) report shows that the cost of a basic healthy diet for a family of four in Durham Region is calculated to be $837 per month or $193 per week. This represents a 12 per cent increase in food costs over the past five years.

The NFB survey is conducted annually in Durham Region to monitor food affordability. In combination with local housing costs, public health examines the NFB to determine the accessibility of a healthy diet for area residents and raise public awareness that local poverty and food insecurity rates continue to increase

“There is urgent need to address the economic barriers that people living with low incomes experience in accessing a nutritious diet,” said Deborah Lay, registered dietitian and public health nutritionist with Durham Region Health Department. “Increasing food costs aside, the true issue is that incomes are too low and many individuals and families just do not have enough money to pay for their basic needs, including shelter and healthy food.” 

In 2016, 10 per cent of Durham Region households, or approximately 50,000 area residents, were food insecure; this means they either worried about running out of food, settled for lower quality foods or missed meals altogether. Food insecurity also poses serious health risks such as higher rates of diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and disproportionately higher health care use with increasing severity of food insecurity.

The report found that a family of four consisting of two parents ranging in age from 31 to 50 and two children – a boy 14 to 18-years old and a girl four to eight-years old – whose source of income is Ontario Works, can expect to pay 91 per cent of their income on rent and food leaving only $187 for all other monthly expenses. The amount of household spending on food and shelter is roughly four times greater for those at the lowest income level than those who fall within the Ontario average income.

“Greater access to affordable housing could help families and individuals living in low income situations to better meet their basic living needs,” added Ms. Lay. As of October 31, over 5,900 applicants were on Durham Region’s waiting list for rent-geared-to-income housing.

Ms. Lay noted that a public policy response targeting low household income is needed to tackle the inequity of food insecurity.

“The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services is conducting public consultations on this issue through the Basic Income Pilot Survey,” Ms. Lay explained. “Everyone is encouraged to get involved by taking the survey, and expressing your views on poverty, health, housing and employment needs in Ontario.” The Basic Income Pilot Survey is available at

For more information on food insecurity in Durham Region, check out the Hunger in Durham 2016 video on To download a copy of the 2016 Hunger in Durham infographic, as well as the 2016 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 at

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Media inquiries:

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.