Cost of Eating in Eastern Ontario

Monitoring Food Affordability
The Cost of Eating in 2022
Food Insecurity in EOHU Region
Impact of Food Insecurity
Effective Solutions to Food Insecurity
What Can You Do?

Monitoring Food Affordability

Each year, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) monitors food costs using the Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) survey tool. In 2022, the NFB was updated to reflect the new Canada’s Food Guide and is now called the Monitoring Food Affordability (MFA) survey tool.

The results from the MFA tool are used to monitor trends in the cost of food over time as well as the affordability and accessibility of foods by relating the cost of food to individual and household incomes using case scenarios. Since the tool is new from this year, the results from this year cannot be compared to previous years.

The MFA survey is conducted by pricing 59 food items using the lowest available cost in eight grocery stores in our region and calculating the average retail price. The items costed meet the recommendations from Canada’s Food Guide, and assume that people have the time, skill, and equipment needed to cook these food items. The tool does not include prepared convenience foods or household non-food items, such as toiletries.

The Cost of Eating in 2022

The cost of eating for a family of four living in the EOHU region is $1100 per month.1

The case scenarios, shown in Table 1 below, demonstrate that for low-income households, incomes are not adequate to pay for food, housing, and other costs of basic living such as transportation, childcare, and clothing.

For example:

  • After paying for rent and food, a family of 4 on OW has only $353 left to cover all other expenses.
  • A single person living on OW or ODSP spends most of their income on rent. There is no money left for food or other expenses.

Table 1. Monitoring Food Affordability Income Scenarios, EOHU Region, 2022.

Scenarios Total monthly incomea Housingb Foodc Funds remaining for other costs of basic living

Family of 4*
Ontario Works

$2760 $1307 $1100 $353
Family of 4*
Full-Time Minimum Wage Earner
$3973 $1307 $1100 $1566
Family of 4*
Median Income
$9323 $1307 $1100 $6916
Single Parent 
with 2 Children

Ontario Works
$2528 $1092 $808 $628
1 Person
Ontario Works
$863 $890 $396 $-423
1 Person
Ontario Disability Support Program
$1309 $890 $396 $23
1 Person
Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income Supplement
$1885 $890 $284 $711

*Reference family of four, includes a 31-50 year-old male, a 31-50 year-old female, a 14-18 year-old male, and a 4-8 year-old female. Other types of households may have different costs.

a. Total income sources vary by scenario and can include: income from employment; Basic Allowance; Maximum Shelter Allowance; Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income System; Canada Child Benefit; GST/HST credit; Ontario Trillium Benefit; Working Income Tax Benefit; Employment Insurance paid; Canada Pension Plan paid, Climate Action Incentive Payment.

b. Rental Market Report. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. October 2021. Accessed October 13, 2022. [](average from Ottawa, Cornwall, Hawkesbury)

c. Reference: Monitoring Food Affordability Results 2022 for Eastern Ontario Health Unit - Includes family size adjustment factors.

Food Insecurity in EOHU Region

Food insecurity refers to the inadequate or insecure access to food due to a lack of money. Food insecurity ranges in severity from being worried about running out of food to not being able to afford a balanced diet to going hungry.2

According to the most recent Canadian Income Survey (CIS) data currently available at the public health unit level, from 2018 to 2020, in the EOHU area:

  • 15.3% of households said they had experienced some level of food insecurity at least once in the past 12 months3, and
  • 16.1% of children are living in food insecurity.4

Impact of Food Insecurity

Household food insecurity takes a tremendous toll on the health care system. In Ontario, total annual health care costs are higher for adults living in food insecure households than food secure households, and these costs increase with the severity of food insecurity.5

Canadians living in food insecure households are also at greater risk of poor mental health than those living in food secure households.6 Children living in food insecure environments are more likely to suffer from hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder.6

Effective Solutions to Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is about not having enough money for food.

Effective solutions to address food insecurity include the creation of jobs with livable wages and benefits, social assistance rates that reflect the true costs of living, and a basic income guarantee for all.

While charitable food programs such as food banks focus on the physical access to food and can temporarily help those experiencing food insecurity to obtain some food, they remain ineffective at addressing the root cause of food insecurity, which is poverty.

What Can You Do?

  • Learn more about why food insecurity is a serious public health problem: PROOF: Household Food Insecurity in Canada
  • Learn more about why income solutions are needed to reduce food insecurity: ODPH Position Statement and Recommendations on Responses to Food Insecurity
  • Send letters to your MP and MPP showing your support for income-based solutions to address food insecurity such as affordable housing, income security, public transit and accessible child care. ODPH has a letter template that you may use and edit as needed.
  • Work with municipalities to facilitate local level initiatives that increase economic resilience for individuals and families living with very low incomes, such as free income tax filing assistance, as well as targeted support for access to and training for jobs with livable wages and benefits.

For more information about efforts underway to reduce food insecurity, or to learn about how we can support your advocacy efforts, please contact us at


  1. Eastern Ontario Health Unit. Monitoring Food Affordability Data Results. 2022.
  2. PROOF. Food Insecurity Policy Research. Household Food Insecurity in Canada. Retrieved from
  3. Public Health Ontario. Household Food Insecurity Estimates from the Canadian Income Survey: Ontario 2018-2020. Toronto. 2023.
  4. Public Health Ontario. Canadian Health Survey of Children and Youth: Food Insecurity among Children. Toronto. 2023.
  5. PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research. The Impact of Food Insecurity on Health. Retrieved from
  6. PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research. Food Insecurity and Mental Health. Retrieved from