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The Real Cost of Eating Well in Windsor-Essex

Every year, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit surveys the price of food items from grocery stores across the city and county. Using this data and a survey tool called the Nutritious Food Basket, we calculate the cost of one week’s worth of groceries.

In 2019, the cost of groceries for a family of four was $211.20.

This represents an increase of 8.8% over the previous year’s calculation ($194.04). To arrive at this cost, we priced 67 food items in nine area grocery stores, calculating the average lowest retail price.

The items included meet recommendations from Canada’s Food Guide. The assumption is that people have the time, skill, and equipment needed to cook low-cost staples.

The survey does not include prepared convenience foods or household non-food items.

Cover image of The Real Cost of Eating Well in Windsor-Essex 2019 Report

Why does the cost of food matter?

We know that when money is tight, people are forced to cut into their food budget to pay for other living expenses. They skip meals, eat fewer vegetables and fruit, drink less milk, and fill up on non-nutritious foods that cost less. The result of this unhealthy diet over time is an increased risk of chronic illness, and poor growth and development in children.

Why can’t people afford enough healthy food?

For people living on minimum wage, Ontario Works, or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), it’s hard to make ends meet. After paying rent, they still have to pay for other necessities such as:

  • Heat and hydro
  • Transportation, car maintenance, and gas
  • Child care
  • Phone
  • Clothing
  • Eye and dental care
  • Home maintenance
  • Costs for children in school
  • Household cleaners and personal hygiene products

This means that little money is left for buying nutritious food. Too often, it’s so little that people go hungry.

COST OF NFB IN WEC

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Cost of healthy eating in WEC

$188.04

$200.07

$203.03

$196.28

$194.04

$211.20

Change from previous year ($)

$8.50

$12.03

$3.04

$-6.75

$-2.24

$17.16

Change from previous year (%)

4.7%

6.4%

1.52%

-3.3%

-1.1%

8.8%

Consider these real-life situations for people living in Windsor-Essex County:

 

Households with Children

Single Person Households

 

Scenario
1

Scenario
2

Scenario
3

Scenario
4

Scenario
5

Scenario
6

Scenario
7

 

Ontario Works

Minimum Wage Earner

Median Ontario Income

Ontario Works

Ontario Works

ODSP

Senior OAS/GIS

Income

Total Monthly Income (Including Benefits and Credits)

$2,623

$3,633

$7,983

$2,401

$825

$1,272

$1,727

Expenses

Estimated Monthly Rent*

$1,090

$1,090

$1,090

$915

$600

$772

$772

Healthy Food (Nutritious Food Basket, 2019)

$914.50

$914.50

$914.50

$691.66

$306.93

$306.93

$223.84

Monthly Income Remaining for Other Expenses**

 

$1,628.50

$5,978.50

$794.34

$193.07

$731.16

% Income Required for Rent***

42%

30%

14%

38%

73%

61%

45%

% Income Required for Nutritious Food

35%

25%

11%

29%

37%

24%

13%

% Income Required for Rent & Food

77%

55%

25%

67%

110%

85%

58%

* Private Apartment Average Rents. www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/data-and-research/publications-and-reports/rental...
** People still need funds for utilities, phone, transportation, cleaning supplies, personal care items, school supplies, medical and dental costs and other costs.
*** Housing that is more than 30% of the income is considered unaffordable housing.

What can we do?

All people in Windsor-Essex should have access to a nutritious, adequate diet, and each of us has a role to play to ensure it. Start by educating yourself about what causes hunger and poverty, then get involved.

To become involved:

  • Share your gardening skills or donate growing space to local groups, like the Windsor-Essex Community Garden Collective. To find out more, visit www.wegarden.ca.
  • Donate time, food, or money to support our local emergency food programs (i.e., food banks and meal programs). Visit www.wechu.org/donate for a list of healthy food donations.
  • Think about where your food comes from and buy local products when you can. Visit www.weheartlocal.ca to learn more about foods that grow locally and where to buy them.

Advocate for:

  • Improved social assistance and minimum wage
  • An increase in the number of employers who pay at least a living wage
  • More affordable housing availability
  • Accessible and affordable child care To learn more about poverty-reduction strategies that could improve access to healthy food for all Canadians, visit www.dignityforall.ca You can also sign on to Dignity for All’s national campaigns to end poverty

Food costs is an issue that affects our community. When people are short of money, they are unable to afford healthy foods, which can impact their health. That's why working to eliminate poverty is everyone's responsibility.

If you, or someone you know, are having difficulties accessing food, go to www.211ontario.ca or call 211 to find a local emergency food program that can help.

View the PDF version of this report.

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Last modified: 
Wednesday, December 18, 2019 - 11:43am