According to a press release from the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), one in seven families in northwestern Ontario is struggling to put food on the table.
A food costing survey done by NWHU last spring, indicated that the average cost to feed a family of four is $299.12 per week or $1295.18 per month. These numbers come from before the inflation that has wreaked havoc on the economy, but a dietician with NWHU says the problem is more than just the cost of food.
“The root cause of food insecurity is poverty, too many households are struggling to afford the cost of basic living in northwestern Ontario, especially those on minimum wage and social assistance,” said Zoe Brenner, Registered Dietitian with NWHU. “Many of our neighbors must choose between food on the table or a warm roof over their heads. Which would you choose?”
When money starts to run short, people often sacrifice good-tasting, healthy food to pay for other expenses like rent and utility bills. Poor nutrition can lead to diminished physical health, increases in mental illness and can add costs to the healthcare system as well.
Sue Larson is the Community and Family Services Co-ordinator for the Salvation Army food bank in Fort Frances. She says the food bank has been taxed as costs increased.
“It’s been hard,” Larson said. “Funding is low but thankfully we’ve had a lot of donations which is helping to restock. We’ve seen an increase in our clients as well because of food costs.”
Over the Christmas season the Fort Frances Salvation army is putting together 250 Christmas hampers in addition to 29 which have been sponsored by community groups or businesses. This number is about 50 more than last year’s total.
NWHU believes the gap between cost of living and income needs to be narrowed. They say that food is a basic right for everyone. Affordable housing and childcare in addition to wages and social assistance that reflect the cost of living would help reduce poverty and food insecurity, NWHU says.