Year after year, data from the Nutritious Food Basket clearly shows that low income households do not have enough money to cover the basic costs of living. This year is no different.
Results for 2016 reveal that the basic cost of food for a family of four in Grey Bruce is $200.73 per week, or $869.16 per month. If that same family of four is on Ontario Works they would have a total of $452.00 for all other expenses after paying for food and rent here in Grey Bruce. This creates a situation of ongoing poverty.
Poverty is the root cause of household food insecurity. Food charity is usually a community’s first response to food insecurity. Food banks and free meals: although helpful in a crisis situation, they are not effective solutions to food insecurity.
Food insecurity is associated with higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and mental health problems. One in eight households across the province are food insecure. That’s about 1.6 million Ontarians. This is a serious public health problem.
An income response is the only effective solution to food insecurity. This type of response would be beneficial in four ways:
1. It would address the root cause of food insecurity.
2. It would give all households the means to choose what, when, and how to buy the food they want.
3. It would preserve the dignity of people; and,
4. It would ensure the basic right to food which is required for health.
The income response recommended by many social and economic experts is a Basic Income Guarantee or BIG – similar to Old Age Security or the Guaranteed Income Supplement for older persons. The Ontario government is currently planning a pilot of a Basic Income Guarantee.
The Board of Health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit supports the position of the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health, that household food insecurity is a serious public health issue and that an income response is required to effectively address food insecurity.
The Board had earlier endorsed a joint federal-provincial investigation into a basic income guarantee for all Canadians and the urgent need to address the financial barriers that people living with low income experience in accessing nutritious food.