Ottawa Public Health’s annual affordability report, which measures the average cost for families to afford a nutritious diet shows, that a family with two minimum wage earners spend a vast majority of their income on food and rent. 

The 2023 Nutritious Food Basket Survey paints a bleaker picture than last year as the inflation and affordability crises further drive up the cost of basic food items. 

Comparing the costs of 61 different food items across 12 local grocers, analysts broke down the results to find that the average family of four would spend $1,153 a month on groceries in 2023. 

This is a $65 increase when compared to last year where the average cost was $1,088. 

When taking into account specific income scenarios, families on social assistance like Ontario Works earning an average of $2,794 would have to spend 111% of their earnings – potentially getting into debt – so that they can afford housing and meals. 

Those earning minimum wage while providing for two kids would spend 75% of their estimated $4,160 income on rent and foodstuff. 

Single parents with two children were found to spend 97% of their average $2,560 income on shelter and food, while one-person households on social assistance worth $865 a month would have to spend 175% to afford food and rent every month. 

“To effectively address the root cause of household food insecurity, income-based policy interventions are necessary, such as guaranteed basic income, adequate social assistance rates, minimum wage at the level of a living wage, and reduced precarious employment,” said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. 

Estimates show that one in seven households faced food insecurity last year. 

A report released earlier this year by Children First Canada found that 1.8 million kids in Canada were suffering from food insecurity in 2023 – a 30% increase when compared to last year.

“It’s alarming to see we’ve fallen so far behind. I think many of us grew up at a time where Canada was a world leader for children,” said Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada.