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Healthy eating not on the table for low-income earners in York Region – NewmarketToday.ca

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Social assistance and minimum wage remain inadequate for families to eat healthy, according to a York Region Public Health report.

The organization released its annual nutritious food basket report, highlighting food affordability for low-income earners. The report found that the average cost of rent and nutritious food every month outpaced most forms of social assistance. The minimum wage could cover those costs but had little left after. 

“Over the last few years, everyone has noticed increases in the price of food. Unfortunately, struggling to put food on the table is a reality for many York Region residents,” the region said in a news release. “For many low-income households in York Region, healthy eating is not affordable.”

The annual report calculates the lowest month’s worth of food collected from nine grocery stores across York Region, focusing on healthy food and taking out convenience foods, snack foods, or instant formula. 

For a family of four, that monthly cost to maintain a healthy diet is put at $1,219, with rent around $1,883. Meanwhile, social assistance is not keeping pace, with a family of four on Ontario Works $308 short of covering just rent and healthy food costs.

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A graph highlighting food and rent costs versus different social assistance income levels. Supplied photo/York Region

“When there is not enough money, there is pressure to go without other costly living expenses such as childcare, internet, phone and transportation,” the report said. 

A family on a singular minimum wage can cover those food and rent expenses with about $1,058 left over. However, the region said such a family would still be limited in covering necessities like childcare, transportation and medication.

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A graph highlighting minimum wage levels versus food and rent cost in York Region. Supplied photo/York Region

“When working full-time does not provide enough income to be able to meet basic needs, the minimum wage is shown to be inadequate,” the report said, adding that many organizations recommend the provincial government increase the minimum wage rent to reduce food insecurity among workers.

The report said that based on the most recent Canadian Income Survey, about one in seven York Region households have experienced food insecurity in the past year. It further said that food programs like food banks do not address the root cause of the issue, which is income.

“Improving the economic and social conditions of families and individuals is essential to reducing food insecurity,” the report said.

You can read the report online and learn more at york.ca/FoodInsecurity

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