Half a Million British Columbians can’t Afford a Basic Healthy Diet

The BC Centre for Disease Control released their biennial report on the affordability of healthy eating in BC. They found that in 2017, the average monthly cost of a healthy diet for a family of four in BC increased to $1,019. 

The report highlights that the price of food across the province has been steadily increasing since 2009 and notes that low-income families, who spend a greater share of their earnings on food, are the hardest hit.  They also created an infographic that highlights the information in the report and also includes information on solutions and action.

The purpose of the report, entitled Food Costing in BC 2017: Assessing the affordability of healthy eating, is to assess the affordability of healthy eating for different population groups in the province and to provide insight into the challenges food insecure households face to purchase a healthy diet. The average monthly cost of a basic healthy diet as a proportion of household income is a key indicator of household food insecurity, a key public health issue in BC defined as the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints.

According to the latest data, the average monthly cost of food in BC in 2017 was $1,019. After accounting for income, a family of four on income assistance in BC would have to spend at least 44% of its household budget every month just to afford a basic healthy diet.

But the root cause of household food insecurity isn’t the price of food – it’s poverty.

The new provincial food costing data, cross-referenced with the latest provincial income data, highlights the need for all of us to rethink our reliance on food-based strategies to solve a fundamentally income-based problem. While community gardens and other local food-based efforts can support important objectives like social connectedness and sustainability, household food insecurity can’t be solved through charity and community food initiatives. According to the latest evidence and growing calls to action from public health leaders, solving household food insecurity requires policy action from government to improve household income.

Household food insecurity is an urgent health and human rights issue that takes a major toll on the health of individuals, our communities and our health care system. Ensuring all British Columbians can enjoy the right to a basic healthy diet is our collective responsibility.

Together, let’s face the facts on household food insecurity and give all British Columbians a fair chance to put healthy food on the table.