Can Nova Scotians with low incomes afford to eat healthy? According to a new report released today, the answer is no.
Research led by the Food Action Research Centre (FoodARC) at Mount Saint Vincent University, in collaboration with community and university partners, was released today at the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre. “Can Nova Scotians Afford to Eat Healthy? Report on 2015 Participatory Food Costing” examines the affordability of a basic nutritious diet for various households with low and modest incomes in Nova Scotia. Read the full report.
The report is the seventh in a series of participatory food costing reports since 2002. Unique to Nova Scotia, FoodARC works with partners from diverse backgrounds, including those with experience of food insecurity, by using a participatory action research approach to examine access to a healthy diet in Nova Scotia. People, largely women who have experienced food insecurity, participate in all key aspects of the research process, including doing training on and conducting surveys in grocery stores, including the cost of and access to a basic nutritious diet. The monthly cost of a standardized basic food basket and other essential household expenses are then compared to the incomes of households of different sizes and types.
The resulting report emphasizes the systemic nature of food insecurity in Nova Scotia, the inadequacy of the current minimum wage and government income supports, and provides conclusions and recommendations that can inform policy. “Food insecurity isn’t the result of poor choices by individuals; it’s a systemic issue that requires broad and systemic change,” said Dr. Patricia Williams, Canada Research Chair in Food Security and Policy Change, Director of FoodARC, and Professor of Applied Human Nutrition at the Mount. “We have over a decade of participatory food costing data and while some of the changes we have seen over time are positive, they aren’t enough. We need to do more. We need to shift our thinking to long-term solutions to food insecurity where every Nova Scotian has a sustainable liveable income to meet their basic needs, including a nutritious diet. The time for action is now. We are well-positioned in Nova Scotia to innovate for evidence-based comprehensive policy change that will help create the conditions for healthy, just, and sustainable food systems for all.”
The consequences of food insecurity are far-reaching for our communities, but there are clear strategies to address it, some of which are gaining momentum here in Nova Scotia and across Canada. The report makes recommendations related to five areas: adequate income; affordable and subsidized housing; affordable childcare; affordable transportation; and supports for people with unique costs (e.g., for people with disabilities).
This research was supported by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness – https://novascotia.ca/dhw/
The Food Action Research Centre (or FoodARC) is a nationally renowned research centre at Mount Saint Vincent University committed to research, building capacity, sharing knowledge, and advocacy and policy change to build food security in Nova Scotia and beyond. Associated with the Department of Applied Human Nutrition, FoodARC continues the strong Mount tradition of research and community-engaged scholarship in supporting social responsibility, the advancement of women, and preparing students for global citizenship. www.foodarc.ca
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