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Health Unit Focusing on Root Causes of Food Insecurity during November

November 6, 2023

Part of the work of public health is addressing the root of issues that affect health. During the month of November, the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit will be focusing on the issues that affect food insecurity.

Food insecurity is the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints and can affect anyone. Living with food insecurity means not getting enough of the vitamins, minerals and food energy needed for healthy growth and development and to maintain overall mental and immune health. Evidence shows a nutritious food intake plays a positive role for healthy pregnancies and birth outcomes, healthy growth and development, and a risk reduction for chronic diseases later in life. Addressing food insecurity will likely also decrease use of the health care system.

Really, it is an income issue, not a food issue. When money is tight there is less money in the budget for food. This can lead to skipped meals, poor mental, physical and oral health as well as put individuals at a greater risk of developing chronic diseases.

The Health Unit is raising awareness about the root cause of food insecurity….poverty.

Understanding the cost of food is the first step. The Nutritious Food Basket Program helps to identify the cost of food for families and shows that individuals and households living with food insecurity struggle to buy enough nutritious food after paying rent, bills, and other living expenses. This year’s report is found here.

The findings are that the average monthly cost of a nutritious food basket in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark for a family of four on Ontario Works, two adults (1 male, 1 female between 31 and 50 years), a female aged 4-8 and male aged 14-18 was $1130 in June 2023. For a household with a monthly income of $2800, minus their rent which is an average of $1583 in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark, they have $1217 for everything else, before accounting for the cost of food. If you subtract the average cost of food ($1130) this leaves them with $87 for all other expenses, including: Hydro, transportation, insurance, basic phone and internet, child care, clothing and footwear, household supplies, toiletries, over-the-counter medications, extracurricular activities for children, minimal recreation and entertainment, and school supplies.

Food programs and charities are only a short term solutions to these issues. The next step is considering long-term solutions to addressing food insecurity.

Access to a number of solutions can help to eliminate poverty. Ensuring social assistance rates and minimum wage provide for the basic costs of living is a start. Supporting and expanding tax filing initiatives targeted at low-income households can increase access to government subsidies. Ensuring access to safe, affordable housing, childcare and transportation is another factor. Implementing basic minimum employment standards to reduce precarious employment as well as encouraging local businesses and agencies to become Living Wage employers can also help with income issues.

A living wage is the minimum hourly wage a worker needs to earn in order to cover their basic expenses (i.e., housing, nutritious food, clothing etc.) and participate fully in their community. It is calculated yearly using community data and informs and advocates for discussion around what it costs to live in a given area. In 2023, the living wage for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark is $20.60. One thing an organization can do to support this movement, is become a living wage employer. Living wage employers are certified organizations or companies that reflect the values of Living Wage Ontario and pay all employees at the rate of the living wage (or more) for the region they operate in. For more information on becoming a living wage employer, click here.

What can we do:

  • Educate
  • Advocate
  • Support
  • Share
  • Be Kind

Go to to get more information about Food Insecurity, the Nutritious Food Basket Program or Health Equity and Living Wage. You can also call 1-800-660-5853, email [email protected] or follow LGLHealthUnit on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) or lglhealthunit.z on Instagram.


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