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Residents Forced to Choose Food or Pay Bills
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Findings released by the Elgin St. Thomas Public Health Unit's 2013 Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) Report highlight that some families and individuals in our community cannot afford a healthy diet, forced to choose between paying bills and healthy eating.

Every year under the direction of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Health Unit calculates the cost of the Nutritious Food Basket. This survey tool is designed to represent an eating pattern that meets Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide. The 2013 NFB survey showed the cost of feeding a family of four (two parents, two children) in Elgin and St. Thomas has increased over 3% in three years, now costing $184.95 per week or $739.80 per month. When income is low and living expenses are high, people don't have enough money for food.

In addition to the annual NFB report, this year the health unit also adapted a video to raise awareness of how social and economic conditions impact health in our community. The video "Let's Start a Conversation about Health..." aims to reframe the conversation about health, to highlight that health is about much more than access to medical care. Health begins where we live, learn, work and play. Everyone has different opportunities for health, largely influenced by our social and economic conditions, such as access to healthy nutritious food.

According to Carolyn Kuntz, Director of Health Promotion for Elgin St. Thomas Public Health, "Income is one of the best predictors of health. When people are short on money, they're more likely to have poor health. Income is linked to increased risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression as well as poor growth and development in children. These conditions cost more to manage and treat than they would to prevent."

The Health Unit has been working with community partners to address food security and other barriers to health in Elgin and St. Thomas. There are resources available through the health unit [1-800-922-0096 (or 519-631-9900)] to help service providers and community members' access programs and supports for better health.

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