To middle and low-income families, the rising cost of maintaining a nutritious diet is escalating beyond their financial means.
But that reality has been reinforced in the Food Costing in BC 2022 report which highlights the health cost challenges posed by food insecurity.
“Food insecurity is a significant public health issue,” said Dr. Geoff McKee, medical director of population and public health with the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).
“The price of food does not affect everyone equally and the root cause of household food insecurity is low incomes.”
The BCCDC collaborates with the provincial Ministry of Health and regional health authorities to monitor the average cost of a nutritious diet in B.C. for a family of four.
The food costing report is typically conducted every two years, but this is the first report done since 2017 due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the report, average monthly costs in 2022 across the five regional health authorities ranged from $1,193 to $1,366.
It determined that for households on a low income, after paying rent the cost of a nutritious diet is prohibitive, stating almost 15 per cent, 732,000 people in B.C., struggle to put food on the table.
“Household food insecurity takes a major toll on people’s physical and mental health, social and emotional well-being, and on our provincial health care system,” said Dr. Charmaine Enns, medical health officer for Island Health.
Those sentiments were echoed by Dr. Fatemah Sabet, medical health officer for Interior Health, who says all three levels of government - federal, provincial, and civic - need to collaborate on finding equity-based solutions.
“Food insecurity is a very complex problem and we need governments and food security organizations to work together to address the root causes behind it,” Sabet said.
She noted housing affordability is one of those key root causes, with increased rental and mortgaged housing costs.
“This report shows the difficulty many people on lower incomes face after the subtraction of housing and food costs, there is not much left for families to live on,” Sabet said.
While the solutions are as complex as the food insecurity problems, Sabet said the intent of the report is to start more discussions, more collaboration, toward finding some answers.
Otherwise, the report cites a growing health toll- babies, children and youth experience an increased risk of anemia, lower nutrient intake, asthma and hospitalization along with having poorer school academic outcomes and social skills; adults suffer higher rates of chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, social isolation, depression and sleep anxiety.
“Food insecurity has a lot of impacts on our physical, mental and emotional well-being, problems that need to be addressed. This report highlights that and hopefully can generate some talking points for discussions going forward,” she said.