More than 15 per cent of households in Durham are facing difficulties putting the right food on the table, according to a new report by regional health officials.
Each year, the Durham Region Health Department monitors the cost of a basic healthy diet, based on food prices and nutrition recommendations.
“Food insecurity is not being able to afford safe, nutritious food, due to lack of money,” said Deborah Lay, a public health nutritionist at the Durham Region Health Department, in an interview with Durham Radio News. “In 2022, 15 per cent of Durham Region households were food-insecure, which means that they are either worried about running out of food, or they settle for a lower quality of food than they would normally have selected.”
“It may not have fit in with their traditional diet,” she noted. “Or if they have specific food restrictions, they might have had to forego that, just to buy food in general. In the most severe cases of food insecurity, they would have had to reduce their food intake or skip meals altogether.”
According to the report, the average family-of-four needs to spend around $246 per week for a basic healthy diet in 2022. That translates to $1,067 per month.
Among homes experiencing food insecurity, 60 per cent rely on low-wage employment, short-term or precarious work, or multiple jobs.
A family-of-four accessing Ontario Works can expect to spend 95 per cent of their income on rent and food, with only around $139 for other monthly expenses.
“That’s a relatively conservative estimate,” said Lay. “When we do the food costing, we look at basic healthy foods. There’s an assumption made [in the calculations] that one knows how to cook from scratch, that they have access to grocery stores that sell basic items. We don’t cost things that people normally buy when they do their groceries, like toothpaste, perhaps pet food, toiletries [or] cleaning supplies.”
Lay also described the long-term health impacts, on both individuals and the health care system.
“It affects the physical, mental and social well-being, as well as life expectancy,” she said. “Higher rates of food-insecurity can lead to Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and also, surprisingly, health care use. Health care costs for food-insecure adults are 121 per cent higher than those of food-insecure adults in Canada. It’s a significant cost on the public health funding for Canadians as well as in Durham Region at large.”
To read the report, click here. You can also read some summarized factoids here.
For more information on where to access services in the Durham Region, click here.