Almost one quarter of kids in Ontario face food insecurity at home, a startling new survey reveals.
The troubling statistic was reported by Ottawa Public Health’s (OPH) Nutritious Food Basket 2023 survey, which seeks to map food insecurity and access to a nutritious diet.
OPH’s report highlights that nearly one in four children in Ontario, or 24.6%, lived in food-insecure households.
This figure translates to almost 700,000 children across the province who are struggling with access to adequate and nutritious food.
Analysts underscored the urgent need to address food insecurity, particularly among Ontario’s most vulnerable residents.
In 2022, 19.2% of Ontarians, equivalent to 2.8 million people, faced household food insecurity, indicating that the issue continues to worsen.
Moreover, the report details a significant increase in the cost of maintaining a healthy diet. For a reference family of four in Ottawa, the cost of healthy eating has risen to $1,153 per month, compared to $1,088 per month in 2022.
This escalating cost presents a serious barrier to families striving to provide nutritious meals for their children, OPH warned.
The impact of food insecurity is not uniform and disproportionately affects households that rent their homes, with 25.9% of renters experiencing food insecurity.
The Nutritious Food Basket survey is an annual tool employed by Ottawa Public Health since 1998, designed to assess the affordability of a healthy diet as mandated by the Ontario Public Health Standards.
OPH examines the costs of food, along with average rental rates, and compares them to income levels, particularly for those reliant on social assistance or earning minimum wage.
This year’s affordability report paints a grim picture, with many families grappling with the rising costs of basic food items and rent. The average cost for a family of four to afford a nutritious diet in 2023 is now $1,153 per month, marking a $65 increase from the previous year when it was $1,088.
Furthermore, those relying on social assistance, such as Ontario Works, with an average monthly income of $2,794, would need to allocate 111% of their earnings just to cover the expenses of housing and meals.