Eat­ing up your in­come

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

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

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