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Impossible for many Simcoe Muskoka residents to afford healthy food: survey


Simcoe-Muskoka residents are struggling to put basic healthy food on the table, according to a Nutritious Food Basket Survey, as the cost of living continues to rise to unprecedented levels.

"When people have no other option but to cut their food budget to pay for other essential fixed expenses, they are experiencing household food insecurity," says Vanessa Hurley, public health nutritionist and registered dietitian.

The annual survey, which monitors food affordability for lower-income households, estimates an average cost of $1159.92 for a family of four (two adults and two children) and $419.00 for a single-person household to buy basic groceries for the month.

A release from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit explains that for many individuals and families living with lower incomes, the cost of healthy food and rent uses most of their income, and in some cases, all or more.

The survey suggests a family of four with one full-time earner making minimum wage, is spending 66 per cent of their income on food and rent, while a single adult, living alone on Ontario Works is spending 161 per cent of their income, with no money left over for living expenses like utilities or transportation.

"The struggle to put food on the table is real for many of our residents – one in six households are experiencing some level of food insecurity. Without access to nutritious foods, people may experience negative health outcomes that can last a long time and even a lifetime," says Hurley.

The health unit says individuals with household food insecurity are more likely to suffer from poor physical and mental health, diabetes, hypertension, and depression. In comparison, children are more likely to develop asthma and mental health conditions.

Explaining that the effects of food insecurity on the mental and physical health of residents place a substantial burden on the healthcare system, resulting in increased costs that impact everyone.

"What we need are policies and programs at all levels of government that reduce poverty and help people afford basic healthy food and the cost of living," says Hurley. "This includes increased social assistance rates, jobs that pay a living wage, and more affordable housing options in our communities. We need to reduce household insecurity rates in our communities – it affects us all, and we all have a role to play". Top Stories

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