Eating up your income
An apple a day used to keep the doctor away. Today, many Canadians can’t afford that apple, let alone bring one to school for the teacher.
In the 12 months ending in April, apple prices on Canadian store shelves increased by a staggering 23 per cent. A similar trend has
affected many fruits and vegetables, although not quite to the stratospheric level of apples.
Soaring prices have sent Canadians streaming out of the fresh produce section of grocery stores suffering from sticker shock.
The impact has dramatically affected our shopping habits and, more alarmingly, our health, especially among lower-income Canadians.
It’s a disturbing domino effect for the nation.
Nutritionally, there are few suitable substitutes for fresh fruits and vegetables. Increasing numbers of Canadians can’t afford to buy them. They are just too pricey. The spectre of that $8 head of winter cauliflower sent us fleeing for cover.
A joint study released this week by Dalhousie and Guelph universities contains startling statistics. Most vegetable and fruit prices have increased by more than 10 per cent over the past year - many by more than 15 per cent or higher.
Canada relies on imports for 80 per cent of our fruits and vegetables. We are at the mercy of the low Canadian dollar and climate conditions in the southern U.S., Mexico and Chile. It’s been a punishing combination. Lower-income Canadians are more likely to change their buying habits as a result of high prices. Even higher-income Canadians are opting for juices or frozen foods. There has been a recent 45 per cent spike in purchases of frozen vegetables. Our nutrition levels are dropping. Food inflation means the average Canadian will spend $345 more on food this year. Many of us feel the increases are unjustified. So much for recent cheaper gas and oil prices. Lower transportation costs should have negated some of the impact of the low dollar. What happened? Savvy shoppers are going to lower-priced products like potatoes for better value.
We expect some relief is on the way soon when local produce starts to appear in places, but prices never seem to fall. There is a cost for better eating habits. Higher prices for fruits and vegetables have just made things worse. A provincial report last week drew a close connection between income and wellness. Low-income families saw higher physical and mental health risks. Those with the highest income had better health. Poor diet was cited as a key cause for cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic pulmonary disease, and diabetes issues.
The report found that accessibility and affordability of safe and nutritious food is influenced by income. The recent surge in prices for fruits and vegetables will only worsen these findings.
We are urged to take more responsibility for better health. We want to eat healthier foods. Sometimes, we just can’t afford to.
When our parents told us to eat our vegetables, they didn’t mean we should go broke doing it. — This editorial originally appeared in The Telegram