The North Bay-Parry Sound District Health Unit is making the case that wages for low-income groups need to increase. The health unit says after low-income people pay things like rent, heat and hydro, they may not have enough money left over to ensure a healthy diet. It cites the example of a 40-year-old man on Ontario Works who collects $806 monthly but ends up $56 in debt after paying rent of $568 and $294 in food and nothing else. It says a person in this position has to use a food bank or soup kitchen to make ends meet in order to pay his heat and hydro, have a phone and cover the cost of transportation.
Although charity programs provide a safety net, the health unit says they don’t resolve the issue because people still face poverty situations. The health unit’s public health dietician, Erin Reyce, says the rise in the minimum wage is a step in the right direction. However she adds more policy measures are needed to reduce poverty rates which helps ensure food security for vulnerable people. In the health unit’s Cost of Healthy Eating Report for 2017, a family of four needs to spend $879 a month to ensure a basic healthy diet.
The health unit says across Ontario 64 per cent of households that depend on social assistance went through some kind of food insecurity. It adds one in eight households in the province struggle to put food on the table despite that almost two-thirds in this group have paying jobs. Also three-quarters of homes that experience food insecurity do not turn to food banks for help.