Going hungry in Ontario's Garden

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People struggling to make ends meet in “Ontario’s Garden” are experiencing hunger or the fear of being hungry.

One in nine households — or 11 per cent — in Norfolk and neighbouring Haldimand County are dealing with some type of food insecurity.

Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, the Medical Officer of Health for Haldimand-Norfolk, presented an update to the health and social services advisory committee on Aug. 15 concerning food insecurity in the counties.

“In some ways that’s striking,” Nesathurai said regarding the 11 per cent figure. “We think of food insecurity in other parts of the world, but in food rich counties it’s striking.”

Norfolk has the name “Ontario’s Garden” due to the large number of produce grown in the county.

Food insecurity is defined as inadequate access to food due to financial restraints.

Emily Kichler, a registered dietitian at the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, discussed the results of the Nutritious Food Basket tool with the committee.


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The NFB is a standardized survey to calculate the average cost of healthy groceries per month in areas across Ontario. The health unit used this tool to estimate that in May 2018 the average cost of groceries for a family of four in the area is $857.17.  This number is $47 more per month than the findings five years earlier. The preliminary 2019 results show an additional increase of $55 a month over the 2018 numbers.

“It’s important to note that the rising cost of food is not the main issue here, rather it’s the inadequacy of income, which we know is the most important predictor of food insecurity,” said Kichler.

To put the cost into perspective, Kichler provided a table of figures showing earner types, monthly income, rent, groceries, and how much money would be left over.

A family of four earning the median Ontario income of $7,871, would spend $878 on rent, $857.17 on groceries, and would have $6,135.83 left over for other things such as bills, and clothes.

A single person on Ontario Works, however, would bring in $810 a month, spending $585 on rent, $287.91 on food, and going into a debt of $62.91 before having to worry about any other bills. Meanwhile, a family of four on Ontario Works spends 67 per cent of their funds on housing and food.  The remaining $847 per month is for all other necessities, said the report.

The report was accepted as information and will be forwarded to the Norfolk Board of Health.

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