Food & Health

What We Heard

Almost across the board respondents said they did not have enough money to afford the foods they needed for basic health, especially fresh fruit and vegetables. Most point to difficulty affording fresh food which is more expensive. Food is a flexible expense – people scaled back their purchases of food to cover other critical expenses, primarily rent. Many use the food bank as a way of increasing their disposable income. Most say the food they receive from food banks does not provide everything they need and tends to be high in salt and sugar. People were knowledgeable about food and nutrition but were not able to afford the foods they needed.

The connection between food and health was talked about regularly. Many questioned the sense of a system that forces people to eat poorly, only to have health problems emerge later. Others reported medical conditions requiring specific diets that were difficult to afford on their income. Programs such as the Special Diet Allowance help. An enormous concern for the fate of the program was expressed in the interviews.

Many people reported eating just one meal a day, particularly single adults who receive $592 per month in Ontario Works benefits. With food prices increasing by 7-8% this year, this situation will continue to worsen.

Questions For Discussion

1. Should food prices be specifically considered when setting benefit rates?
2. Are there other options we should consider in order to ensure people have
the food they need?
3. How should special dietary needs be dealt with in the system?