The long-awaited BC Centre for Disease Control Food Costing in BC 2022: assessing the affordability of healthy eating report has finally been released following a five year gap in reporting due to the pandemic and has provided us new data on food costs and food insecurity in BC. Given the recent inflation in food prices, this Report reaffirms that the cost and affordability of healthy eating remains a serious challenge for many people.
The Report analyzes the average monthly cost of a nutritious diet based on the National Nutritious Food Basket indicator and as a proportion of household income across the five provincial health authorities as a means “to assess the affordability of healthy eating, or the amount of income required for individuals and households to eat a nutritious diet”.
The average monthly food cost in BC for a family of four is $1,263. For a single adult on disability the food average amount across the province is pegged at $481. Especially worrisome is that for these community members who are on disability or income assistance, between the cost of housing and food alone, there remains very little to none left for other necessities. According to the report, this single adult on disability is left in a negative balance of $210 after rent and food alone, where 85% of income is required to pay for rent alone…. “In some cases, once rent is paid, there is not enough money left to afford a nutritious food basket and families or individuals must choose between having a roof over their heads and eating enough nutritious food”.
The Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks are deeply concerned that 14.9% of households in BC continue to experience persistent household food insecurity and calling on the Provincial government to advance significant income policy change where income is the greatest predictor of food insecurity. Despite recent poverty reduction measures as announced in the Provincial budget 2023, we assert that such incremental measures just do not cut it…For example, the largest increase to income assistance and disability in this year’s budget is the increase of $125 per month to the shelter component, which is limited to supporting housing costs. That means a single person on income assistance will receive $1060 a month and people with disabilities will receive $1,483. Critics rightfully say that the payment top-up is paltry given the increasingly unaffordable housing situation in the province, and low-income people will have to pull from their other benefits to continue to afford to live. Such policy fails to meaningfully address systemic poverty in our province.
While the evidence is mounting, our governments are failing to meaningfully address food insecurity. Those of us working in the community food security field have known this for decades and remain frustrated by the limited resources at hand to adequately address food insecurity. It is now time for all of society to demand adequate and deeper income solutions, as we saw with CERB, that guarantee a basic minimum income floor to lift all people out of poverty and food insecurity.