Food Costing in BC: Provincial Health Services Report on Rising Food Costs

Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle, Unsplash Free Stock Photo

Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle, Unsplash Free Stock Photo

The February 2016 release of the BC Provincial Health Services Authority’s Food Costing in BC 2015 shows an increase of $60/month in the cost a nutritious food basket for a reference family of four in British Columbia, since the last measure was taken in 2013.

The average monthly cost of the reference food basket has risen to $974/month.The average monthly cost of a nutritious food basket across the health authorities is:

  • $1,032 in Northern Health (NH)
  • $997 in Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH)
  • $973 in Interior Health (IH)
  • $965 in Island Health (VIHA)
  • $958 in Fraser Health (FH)

The monthly costs for each of BC’s health service delivery areas (HSDAs) were also calculated and range from $927 in the Fraser East HSDA (FH) to $1,121 in the North West HSDA (NH).

The report points out that “sufficient, safe, and nutritious food is critical to the health and well-being of the British Columbian population” and that “the costing results show that the monthly cost of the NNFB [National Nutritious Food Basket] in BC is steadily increasing over time.The cost of a healthy diet can affect individuals and families of all incomes but can have the highest impact among households with the lowest incomes.”

The meaning of food insecurity ranges from:

  • Running out of food (marginal food insecurity)
  • Not being able to afford healthy food (moderate food insecurity)
  • Missing meals or going hungry (severe food insecurity).

The report notes that, as of 2012, 12.7% of the BC population was food insecure, and that “higher rates of food insecurity are found in lower income households and among:families headed by single females, Aboriginal Peoples, marginally housed and homeless people, and new immigrants.”

The report references a recent study in Ontario, the findings of which show that, “as the severity of food insecurity rises, so too does utilization health care services.”It also references the Ministry of Health’s document, the Core Functions Food Security Evidence Review, which points out a number of health and social challenges linked to food insecurity:

  • Birth outcomes and maternal health
    • Inadequate nutrition during pregnancy can have negative impacts on both the mother and baby.For example, low-income women who are unable to meet their dietary requirements during pregnancy have an increased risk for a low weight baby
    • Among food insecure families, the quality and quantity of women’s food intake may deteriorate as household incomes dwindle.
    • Child Development
      • Food insecure children may have poorer academic outcomes and social skills compared to children who do not experience food insecurity.
      • Chronic Diseases
        • Food insecure individuals report higher levels of: poor or fair self-rated health, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and food allergies.
        • Food insecure individuals with diabetes experience greater emotional distress and have a harder time managing their blood sugars and following a diabetic diet.
        • Youth who experience hunger are more likely to have a chronic condition and asthma.
        • Food insecure children have poorer general health.
        • Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being
          • Food insecurity impacts social and mental wellbeing and can increase the likelihood of depression, distress (including feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness), and social isolation.
          • Child hunger is an independent risk factor for depression and suicidal symptoms in adolescence and early adulthood.

The video Land of Milk and Hunger from the 24 April 2014 Keeping in Touch newsletter is worth re-visiting in connection with this topic.It includes voices of professionals who have worked with the growing issue of food insecurity in BC over many years, and their recommendations.

Food Costing in BC 2015 from Plan H.