Healthy food is increasingly out of reach for the island’s poorest


The report highlights the high cost of housing and food.Low-income earners face tough choices

Health foods are becoming increasingly inaccessible to low-income families on Vancouver Island, according to a new report.

A report from the BC Center for Disease Control found that a family of four on a nutritious diet costs an average of $1,366 a month for groceries in the Island Health area.

A survey in May and June 2022 found that households in the North Island health area, which includes the Sunshine Coast, paid an average of $1,370, while households on central and south Vancouver Island each paid an average of $1,343. I paid $1,386.

These prices are among the highest in British Columbia, but only two other areas have higher health authorities: the North Shore Coast Garibaldi region and the North West region.

Access to healthy, nutritious food is important and has a direct impact on health and well-being, said Charmaine Enns, medical health director at Island Health.

“These are not significant findings,” Ends said. “This means that one in seven B.C. households experiences food insecurity and one in six B.C. children lives in a food insecure household.”

Food insecurity in children can lead to problems such as increased inattention and inactivity in important parts of life, Ens said.

The BC Food Cost Report is generally published every other year. The report was released for the first time since 2017 due to delays caused by the pandemic. The researchers found that 245 full-service grocery stores—meaning stores that carry raw meat, dairy, and produce, as well as basic groceries such as flour and cereal—sell prices for 61 groceries. Investigated, but did not take into account transportation costs or the price of small groceries. Grocery store with few product lines.

A follow-up report will be published this year focusing on food security in remote indigenous and non-indigenous communities. Ends expects the cost to be higher because of transportation costs.

“Nutritious foods tend to be heavy foods,” she said. Cheaper alternatives are common, but they are often “empty-calorie” foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients, she says. “People who are food insecure or who have to make difficult decisions about what to eat have high rates of chronic disease,” Ends said. “They have poor oral health, mental health problems, high access to the health system and short life expectancy.

The report reveals that low-income families and individuals are struggling to pay for both housing and healthy meals. Home prices in 2021 are estimated at $1,657 for a three-bedroom unit and $1,150 for a single room.

According to the report’s scenario, single parents with one child on income assistance and young people on disability assistance will be the second largest budget deficit after housing and food.

“People are making very difficult decisions about where their money is going,” said Ens. “Families need to be food safe so they don’t have to make such difficult choices all the time.”

According to Jim Stanford, executive director of the Center for Future Work and former economist at Unifor Labor Union, average Canadian grocery prices rose 11% last year, outpacing the overall inflation rate of 6.3%. It is said that “Unfortunately, Canadians are actually buying less food than they did before the pandemic,” Stanford University said in a statement to the federal commission investigating food price inflation. We are paying much more for food instead.” “In the context of the economic and social crises plaguing our society, powerful corporate groups have taken advantage of supply disruptions and consumer despair to magnify their profits.”

Linda Geggie, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Food and Agriculture Initiative Roundtable, said part of the solution is strengthening local and regional food supply chains rather than relying on food from faraway areas. said that it is

“This year, the prices of local groceries made on local farms are, if not cheaper, compared to grocers that travel long distances and many of the groceries sold at grocers. Even if it is not, it is the same price. [the] The water problem is mostly happening in California,” Geggie said.

“We saw a lot of interest in local food,” says Geggy. “All the grocers we spoke to were interested in buying local food, and most farmers and food manufacturers are supplying and expanding their production capacity, but currently there is a lack of infrastructure. it’s happening.”

Refrigeration and warehousing are the biggest challenges, according to Geggy. But food hubs such as Esquimalt and Port Alberni are rapidly expanding the region’s food economy, she said. “This kind of hub is a big driver. We still know that the majority (most) of our food comes from off-island and industrial food chains, but the more local and regional nature of those supply chains. We also see a growing ability to support the development of the transition to

mjlo@timescolonist.com

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