The harsh reality of food scarcity and its impact on public health has been unveiled in a new comprehensive study conducted by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).
Last year, the BCCDC examined what the average cost for a nutritious meal came out to be on a month-by-month basis, and the impact on public health food scarcity has across the province.
The study says those that skip meals are more likely to suffer from chronic disease, and the common denominator for being faced with food scarcity is income.
It specifically looked at several types of family arrangements from single men on disability to families of four receiving income assistance.
Foods were priced out based on the National Nutritious Food Basket, a metric that uses an assortment of foods commonly consumed by Canadians.
The report says that food costs in September 2022 ballooned at the fastest pace year-over-year since 1981, at 11.4 per cent.
At the time, the average cost to feed a family of four in B.C. a nutritious meal was wound up being $1,263 over a period of one month.
It goes on to say that due to the ever-increasing cost of living and a skyrocketing consumer price index, that number has likely already increased compared to what is being reported today.
“Food insecurity is a significant public health issue,” said Dr. Geoff McKee, spokesperson for BCCDC. “The price of food does not affect everyone equally and the root cause of household food insecurity are low incomes.”
In the below graph, five different living arrangements are shown, with single young-adult males on disability being impacted the most by the surge in costs and on average being negative $210.73, per month.
The report says that about four per cent of people in B.C. experience severe food insecurity, which means missing meals, reducing intake, or not eating for a day or more at a time.
“Almost 15 per cent (or 732,000) of people in B.C. struggle to put food on the table.”
Some of those most at risk include some of our youngest populations.
The risk of chronic disease for children dramatically increases when youth go without proper meals, resulting in an increase of asthma, anemia and hospitalization.
Adults faced with food insecurity have an increase in chronic disease as well. Diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure are all common symptoms for those not getting healthy food.
Other factors in one’s life can also be dramatically impacted by a lack of access to healthy food, such as poor academic outcomes, a lack of social skills, anxiety, sleep disturbances, social isolation and depression.
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Sherry Forbes says she has a weekly budget of $100 for groceries. However lately, the amount of items she can get for that price is shrinking as prices rise.
“I definitely buy a lot of frozen now. You don’t get the same nutritional value but you know, you need your vegetables. I even thought about growing my own but I don’t have a green thumb,” said Forbes.
Professor Sylvain Charlebois at Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab says prices aren’t going down, but the rate of inflation is steadily declining.
“I’m often asked when food prices will go back to where they were. Well, the answer is they won’t because costs are going up,” said Charlebois.
“Although we are expecting more deals because when food inflation drops, it tends to create a more predictable environment market for food companies. So, we are expecting more bargains out there as we go through 2023.”
Charlebois says shoppers should consider going to multiple stores to find the best deals and consider shopping at smaller specialty stores. Growing your own food is also ideal if it’s possible.