Is our food inflated?

February 10th, 2014


Is healthy food priced out of reach or can it become more affordable for Canadian families in the near future?

It is becoming obvious that stretching our dollar to buy healthy, nutritious food is on the minds of many of us. The rising high cost of living, global transportation of food and the need to keep the stores stocked with imported foods all year round may take a toll on our pocketbooks.

Building, staffing and stocking a grocery store today costs thousands of dollars and may even run into the millions. Moving the product off the shelves also comes at a high cost with marketing and flyers, stimulating us to purchase more by sales. With little or no time to cook, Canadians are looking for convenience, but at what cost? With convenience comes a high price not only in food costs but our future health for our kids and us. Are we missing something here?

When it comes to our food we talk a lot about organics, GMO’s, grass-fed, pastured, local, imported, exported…there is nothing simple about healthy eating anymore. Food trends run the industry for a period of time; fizz out and are generally fueled by those who can afford to follow the trend. Not everyone is able to afford organic vs. commercially farmed food, not everyone is able to afford eating fresh food, mostly due to the lack of home cooking skills that have and are being lost with our grandparents. And what about low-income families who can barely afford rent?

There is talk about raising the minimum wage in our country, and it has been said that it is necessary so Canadians can keep up with the Canadian lifestyle? Why is that? Is it for the mortgages, phones, cars and lavish lifestyle that we want so badly to have? Could it be that our food is becoming way too expensive because we are not eating well anymore?  A bag of refined pasta @99 cents vs. red kidney bean pasta @6.99?  Northern provinces like the Yukon pay 13.39 on average for the same bag of refined pasta. A package of ground meat in Toronto, Ontario Canada sells for 4.99ea vs. 49.95 in Carcross, Yukon, Canada a small town about one hour from Whitehorse. This is what they call a Canadian food desert, a place where no grocery store resides making the United States no longer alone affecting 13.5 million, with little or no access to fresh, healthy food.

The problem in many cases is that grocery stores have grown too big, and feel they cannot be successful in smaller communities with low populations. A small grocery store has similar issues as the big stores but seem to be unable to compete because of higher wholesale food costs. Have we forgotten how to take care of the communities that are different and or unique? They, like us, deserve the right to have affordable fresh and locally produced food all year long. On the flip side, there are start up green houses, and small animal farm start ups that will grow produce and raise animals locally in smaller communities. Hopefully they will succeed with our support.

Here in southern Ontario our grocery bills today are costing us almost as much as a mortgage on a modest house. How can we keep going this way and afford to eat healthy? I believe we need to cook at home using fresh, local ingredients that are in-season however this is not the only solution.  It starts with looking back in history to see where things went wrong and working to make changes that will create the need for us to change the way we buy our food.

This is what you’re paying for in the cost of your food.

Imported Food, you pay for
Multiple Drivers
Vehicle maintenance
Safety Incentives
Additional Packaging
Handling costs by many
Processing and elaborate packaging
Food safety-Gassing imported food for pests

Locally sourced food (back in the day) you paid
For local delivery
All of the points listed for imported food above were minimal or did not exist as a cost for locally sourced foods.

Are we going to be at risk of having middle class families that will be unable to put food on the table at some point in the near future here in Canada? We are seeing it now with single mothers barely making enough to make ends meet, and families on low incomes. Often children go to school daily with no breakfast and sometimes with no more than a chocolate cookie and sugary drink for lunch. 

Do you believe we are seeing of inflation in our food?

We are in desperate need of regrouping, rethinking, and making a point to start supporting locally grown, and locally raised animals to help keep fresh food costs reasonable and make eating healthy food affordable for everyone. The problem today is the more we make, the more they take. If we can afford more, they raise the prices even more whether it is your gas, electricity or your food.  Not long ago in 1971 families could afford to buy a home, own a new car and eat well and mom stayed at home.

Tips on how to keep eating local at this time of year,

The fresh aisle: look for Foodland Ontario symbols that signify grown local, carrots, parsnips, sprouts, cucumbers.

Try fresh low impact produce: anything that is grown in the USA, from Collard greens to apples, try organic if it is available.

Try frozen: look for frozen vegetables like corn, peas, carrots, broccoli, green beans and cauliflower that are great blanched and in soups and stews. Frozen wild blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are perfect for blended smoothies and or baking. Look for Foodland Ontario Symbols.

Try buying the locally grown basics: flour, legumes, barely, pasta, mushrooms, Maple Syrup, jams & preserves and honey that is produced locally.

Try sourcing local: your poultry, eggs, pork, beef and fish can be found all year long. There are specialty stores like West Grey Premium Beef in Durham Ontario, (I discovered them while traveling in Ontario this summer on a road trip) which specializes in more than just beef.

Please refer to our What’s In-Season page for produce that may be available in Ontario.

There is a need to help support the farms that feed our families and keep them thriving so they do not have to sell their family farm due to lack of local support by way of us, local grocery stores and markets. It takes many years, strong hands, good soil and a family to build a farm; it takes one signature to give it away for development and leave us with fresh, locally produced food that may be out of reach for us and our children.

live local, love local, eat local