The rising cost of eating healthy
It has become a lot harder to eat healthy in Ottawa these days.
According to Ottawa Public Health, the average family of four can expect to pay 10% more for healthy foods than it did a year ago. For the average family of four that translates to a whopping $80 a month.
Every year Public Health surveys 10 local grocery stores, recording the prices of 67 standard food items that reflect a healthy diet.
Last year the survey determined a family of four would pay an average of $789 a month to eat healthy. This year that same basket of groceries costs $869. It’s the biggest jump in prices Ottawa Public Health has seen in years.
It is particularily hard on low income earners, leading to what's known as “food insecurity” – not being able to access healthy foods. It’s estimated 1 in 10 households in Ottawa are food insecure. “We all know people who are living hand-to-mouth already,” says Ottawa Public Health’s Sherry Nigro. “So this is really going to squeeze them because they just don’t have that extra $80 a month.”
The survey doesn’t collect data on why prices are higher. But one local grocer can think of a couple of reasons. The first one is the change in the exchange rate between the U.S. and Canadian dollars. “We’ve been at par for the last 2 years,” says Alfonso Curcio, owner of Farmer’s Pick. “Now with a little bit of difference then you’re adding another almost 10 percent.”
Curcio points out the exchange rate doesn’t just affect the cost of U.S. produce, but also the cost to transport it.
He also points to a major drought in California for boosting the price of some fruits and vegetables.
He says look for deals on those crops that have had a good year. “Apples should be coming down,” he points out by example. “They have good weather for that.”
Otherwise, consumers are just going to have to shop smarter, clip more coupons, and maybe resist that occasional unhealthy treat. And resist the urge to buy cheaper, less nutritious foods. Poor nutrition has been linked to everything from poor performance at school and work to chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. “Really pay attention to the nutrition and eating well,” says Nigro. “We have to make that a priority.”