Monday, February 23, 2009
Photo Credit: monkeyc.net on Flickr
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But what if you can't afford an apple?
If you're in Toronto chances are you can afford an apple (you can get 6 of them for $1.00). But if you're in Calgary it will cost you $5.02. These are both major cities with significant transportation linkages and there is no rational reason why it should cost 5 times as much to buy apples in Calgary. There are also huge variances in other products, even in cities that are geographically close to each other. Lean ground beef, for example, costs $13.21 per kg in Ottawa, but only $4.74 per kg in Montreal or $4.99 per kg in Peterborough. Generally, food is more expensive in the North, but that is not always true either, with Whitehorse, Yukon having some of the lowest prices in the country for foods like lean ground beef, peanut butter, and potatoes. Some communities have extremely high prices for one product and extremely low prices for another. There is no rhyme and reason to explain the significant price variations in healthy foods in all food groups. This finding is further compounded by the relatively low variation in the price of junk food from one Canadian city to another.
All of this information (and more) is from the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Annual Report Card on Health, which included a national poll of the nutritional habits of Canadians and recruited volunteer shoppers across the country to compare the cost of health foods based on Canada's National Nutritious Food Basket and Canada's Food Guide.
The poll found that 47% of Canadians go without fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products, whole grain products, lean meat or fish because they are too expensive and 68% of Canadians identified price as extremely or very important when choosing what goes into their grocery cart. What are the consequences for our health if McDonald's is cheaper and easier than putting a nutritious meal on the table? What happens when chips are less expensive than potatoes? When fizzy sugary drinks are more affordable than milk and juice? It means that Canadians compromise their health and it means, in particular, that children in low income families are at a greater risk of developing health problems.
Isn't this ridiculous? Why on earth does the government spend its resources regulating the price of things like alcohol when it has no controls whatsoever in place to ensure that nutritious foods are affordable?
The Heart and Stroke Foundation put together a guide on shopping and cooking on a budget that has some great tips for getting more out of your food budget to go along with its general guide on healthy eating. If you try to buy organic, but find it expensive, you might also be interested in my post Organic on the Cheap! 10 Strategies.
Do you have any great tips for making nutritious eating more affordable? Do you think that the government should regulate the price of basic nutritious foods to ensure low income families can afford them?