New data from the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit shows a significant number of households in the Parry Sound-Nipissing region worry about having enough money to eat healthily or even eat at all.

According to the NBPSDHU, one in seven households in the Nipissing and Parry Sound district are food insecure.

Food insecurity means a household does not have enough money to buy healthy food, mainly due to low income.

Food insecurity ranges from worrying about running out of food to relying on less healthy, lower cost foods, to skipping meals due to financial constraints.

The 2018 Cost of Healthy Eating Report shows that it costs a local family of four $884 a month to eat a basic healthy diet.

The Health Unit says for those living with a low income after paying for food and rent, may not have enough money left for necessities such as heat, hydro, transportation, telephone, child care, and other living expenses.

Erin Reyce, Public Health Dietitian at the Health Unit reports, “Food insecurity is a serious public health problem. It greatly impacts health and well-being,”

“Being food insecure increases the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression, and in turn, is associated with higher health care costs.”

She adds that income-related policy measures need to be strengthened in Ontario to reduce poverty rates, particularly social assistance.

The Health Unit also says that research shows approximately 64 percent of households receiving social assistance are food insecure.

The Health Unit believes this demonstrates that social assistance rates are too low to protect recipients from food insecurity.

The Health Unit believes an individual who is food insecure may turn to food charity programs, such as food banks or soup kitchens, to make ends meet.

It says while these programs are important emergency services in the community, they do not address the root of the problem, which is poverty.

Research shows that food insecurity is not a result of poor budgeting or cooking skills.

On Wednesday night, the Health Unit’s Board of Health passed a resolution in support of Bill 60.

This bill calls for the establishment of a social assistance research commission.

This would consist of a group of experts to make recommendations on social assistance policy, including rates that reflect the real cost of living in Ontario.

For more information about food insecurity, visit the NBPSDHU website.