Low income earners can’t afford healthy foods. That from the Simcoe Muskoka board of health, which says it’s clear the biggest barrier to a healthy diet is inadequate income. In Simcoe Muskoka, almost one household in 10 lacks food security and must cut back on food quality and even quantity to cope. This sets people up for poor health.

The findings are in the 2013 Nutritious Food Basket Survey results presented to the board last week. The annual assessment of low-income families’ housing expenses and food prices is collected by all health units in Ontario. Registered Dietitian Jane Shrestha says a Simcoe Muskoka family of four on Ontario Works support would have just $163 left each month after paying for food and rent alone.

In the worst-case scenario, a 35-year-old man on social assistance would be in-the-hole $241 every month after paying for just food and rent. Shrestha says it’s a situation that leaves people cutting corners on food to pay other bills, and sometimes simply going hungry.

Healthy Living Service Director Joyce Fox says the survey’s been used in developing responses such as the Simcoe County Food and Agriculture Charter and other health equity strategies.