It’s no secret that food prices have risen dramatically over the past few years. This not-so-well-kept-secret is evident in the new Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health 2022 Cost of Eating Healthy report — the first of its kind since 2019.
According to a media release, dated Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, the cost to eat healthy for a family of four (two adults, two children) in the KFL&A region was approximately $1,099 per month in 2022.
Graph showing the amount of money left after the monthly rent has been paid for a family of four.
“Our food costing has shown repeatedly that households on low incomes or social assistance struggle to put healthy food on the table and cover other living expenses after paying rent,” said Tracy McDonough, a Registered Dietitian with KFL&A Public Health. “Being unable to afford healthy food can have serious negative impacts on physical and mental health for adults, children and youth.”
Approximately 11 per cent of households in the KFL&A region live with food insecurity, the health agency stated, meaning they cannot afford to buy the food they want and need for good health. “Everyone deserves the right to adequate, healthy, safe, affordable, and culturally-appropriate food,” the report reads. “Income-based strategies are required to address poverty, which is the root cause of food insecurity.”
While the 2019 report showed a higher percentage of households living with food insecurity — at 13 per cent — KFL&A Public Health noted that, for the 2022 report, they followed a new process to determine the cost of healthy eating, compared to previous years. This included online and in-store costing, and an updated list of foods based on the National Nutritious Food Basket. Public Health said that the 61 foods costed reflect a healthy eating pattern from Canada’s food guide.
“It is important to keep in mind that this year’s food costing results and 2019’s results are not comparable, as the methods and basket of foods changed between 2019 and 2022,” said KFL&A Public Health, in response to Kingstonist inquiries.
KFL&A Public Health surveyed seven grocery stores in May 2022. According to the report, the lowest available price in each store is recorded for each food item. The prices from all the stores are then averaged. An extra five percent is added to the total food cost to account for additional food items such as spices, seasonings, condiments, baking supplies, soups, coffee, and tea.
The report provided the following details on food costing:
What items are not included in this food costing?
- Processed convenience foods
- Popular snack foods
- Special dietary foods
- Infant foods
- Religious or cultural foods
- Soap, shampoo, toilet paper, and other personal care items
This also does not include costs associated with eating out at restaurants and extra costs for inviting company to share a meal.
What else should you know about this food costing?
- It assumes that most people have the necessary time, food skills, and equipment to create meals from low-cost food staples and ingredients.
- It assumes that the consumer has access to quality food stores and the means of transportation to comparison shop.
The report also outlines recommendations and suggestions on how governments and community organizations can help reduce household food insecurity.
“Food charity and community food programs cannot solve poverty, which is the root cause of food insecurity,” the report states. “Income responses are typically government policies that improve income security at a systemic level, through income transfers, employment policies, pensions, tax exemptions or credits, and social assistance programs.”
In the report, KFL&A Public Health stated it has committed to:
- Conduct regular local food costing
- Ensure updated, local food costing is available for use by municipalities and community partners
- Advocate for income-based policies so that all residents can afford to buy healthy food
Public Health also noted ways individuals can help fight food insecurity:
- Learn more about the issue and why income solutions are needed to reduce food insecurity
- Spread the word by talking about the problem, and sharing the report with peers, colleagues, and partner agencies
- Ask for action from political leaders
For more details on the Cost of Eating Healthy in KFL&A, and to download the full report, visit kflaph.ca/CostofEatingHealthy.