KAWARTHA LAKES-More than one in 10 local households are “food insecure” according to the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit. In response, officials are launching a new initiative called Rethink Poverty: Changing Minds, Changing Lives.
“We know many low-income earners in the City of Kawartha Lakes are food insecure, especially those working in low-paying, unstable jobs,” says Aisha Malik, a Registered Dietitian with the HKPR District Health Unit. “Working full-time hours at minimum wage no longer guarantees someone can afford basic needs, including food and rent.”
In Ontario 1 million people over the age of 25 make $15 an hour or less. A living wage in the City of Kawartha Lakes is $17.65 an hour according to statistics.
People are asked to visit www.rethinkpoverty.ca to learn more about local food insecurity and what they can do to help solve it. The Rethink Poverty site includes resources and videos about food insecurity, and most importantly a template letter that residents are encouraged to email to their MPPs and MPs. The letter asks area politicians to continue supporting and pushing for income-based solutions like a higher minimum wage, better employment standards and a Basic Income Guarantee. While ‘food charity’ (such as food bank use) may address food insecurity in the short-term, it is not a long-term solution. Poverty is the root cause, and the only way to fix the problem is to provide people with more income, Malik adds.
The Health Unit’s message for people to ‘rethink poverty’ is bolstered by findings from its annual Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) survey for 2017. The Nutritious Food Basket tracks the affordability of healthy foods for individuals and families in the area. According to the Health Unit’s NFB calculations, on average it costs approximately $882 per month for a family of four (two adults, one teenager and one child) to eat healthy in the City of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton County and Northumberland County in 2017. While the Health Unit’s NFB costing for 2017 is very similar to the 2016 finding, increases in other monthly expenses mean people’s incomes are not keeping pace.
“We continue to see situations where rising costs for rent, utilities, hydro, clothing and some food make it difficult for people who rely on social assistance, disability benefits and minimum-wage jobs to pay all their bills,” Malik says. “This is leading some low-income earners in our community to put off buying healthy food so they can pay for other basic needs of life.”
Lack of healthy food leads to poorer health and higher medical costs, which makes a stronger argument in favour of income-based solutions like a higher minimum wage, better employment standards and a Basic Income Guarantee according to the ehalth unit. “Food insecurity affects all of us, and income-based solutions are an investment that pays off in improved wellbeing for residents and lower health care costs,” Malik says. One example of an income-based solution is the Basic Income Guarantee (www.ontario.ca/page/ontario-