Rising Food Costs Deepen Insecurity in Thunder Bay, New Report Reveals

Vegetables are pictured at the opening day of the International Green Week (Internationale Gruene Woche) agriculture and food fair in Berlin, Germany, January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

THUNDER BAY – Living – The challenge of securing enough nutritious food continues to escalate for numerous households within Thunder Bay, spotlighted in the latest report by the Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) on the Cost of Eating Well for 2023.

Released just yesterday, the study painstakingly assesses the financial hurdles faced by families and individuals in the district, varying from minimum wage earners to those dependent on social assistance, using a methodical evaluation of 61 essential, nutrient-rich food items that constitute the Nutritious Food Basket.

2023 Food Cost Report Unveiled: A Deep Dive into Thunder Bay’s Growing Food Insecurity

TBDHU’s comprehensive analysis reveals a stark reality: the average monthly expenditure on basic food items for a family of four has surged to $1,204.60 this year. This reflects a substantial increase of $158.60 or 15.2% from the preceding year, underlining a concerning trend of rising food costs.

Consumers can also note the impact of shrinkflation on their weekly costs of a trip to the grocery store. Smaller packages with the same price means it takes more money to keep up with enough food.

Families Face Soaring Grocery Bills: An Overview of the Rising Financial Burden

Kim McGibbon, Public Health Nutritionist at TBDHU, emphasizes the critical issue of food insecurity, noting the dilemma families face in affording quality food after meeting essential expenses such as rent and utilities. The report further illustrates that nearly 20% of individuals in the Thunder Bay district experienced food insecurity in 2022, highlighting the urgent need for intervention.

“When families cannot afford the quality or amount of food they need to stay healthy, they are food insecure,” said Kim McGibbon, Public Health Nutritionist “As food is a flexible expense, many families do not have enough money to buy food after paying for rent and utilities.”

Towards Sustainable Solutions: Calls for Living Wages and Basic Income Initiatives

In response to these challenges, TBDHU is actively engaging community leaders and partners, stressing the necessity for addressing the intertwined issues of food insecurity and poverty to ensure access to nourishing foods for all district residents. Dr. Janet DeMille, Medical Officer of Health, advocates for long-term solutions beyond temporary aids like food banks. She emphasizes the importance of income-based strategies, including a living wage that truly reflects living costs and a basic income guarantee.

“Food banks were created to provide temporary relief to food insecurity”, says Dr. Janet DeMille, Medical Officer of Health. “Addressing food insecurity over the long-term requires income-based solutions, such as providing individuals with a living wage that reflects the true costs of living and providing a basic income guarantee.”

Furthering their commitment to these solutions, the TBDHU Board of Health has endorsed support for Bill S-233 to the National Finance Committee and the Prime Minister, advocating for a national framework for a guaranteed livable basic income. The board also acknowledged the need for continuous local food affordability monitoring to guide provincial social assistance rate adjustments.

For a comprehensive understanding of Thunder Bay’s food affordability challenges and the proposed initiatives for change, the full “Cost of Eating Well in the District of Thunder Bay, 2023” report and the “Hungry for Change, 2023” document are available for public review.

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