How Much Does Healthy Eating Cost
Eating Well in the City of Hamilton
Not all Hamilton residents can afford a basic, healthy diet. The Guide is maintained by Red Book Community Information and lists places where providers can refer clients to receive free or low-cost food.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, The Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) survey was put on hold in 2020 and 2021. The survey resumed in Hamilton in June 2022 and results are currently being compiled to share in fall 2022.
Every year Hamilton Public Health checks the price of healthy foods using the Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) survey. The results of the NFB survey are used to determine if healthy eating is affordable for Hamiltonians. It is not meant to be a guideline on how much to spend on food.
The cost of the NFB is calculated based on the average lowest cost of 67 food items across seven grocery stores in Hamilton. The foods on the survey include items belonging to the food groupings found in Canada’s Food Guide (fruits and vegetables, whole grains and protein foods) and were chosen based on Canadian eating and purchasing patterns.
The NFB does not include certain types of food and other items such as:
- processed and convenience foods
- soft drinks
- snack foods
- special dietary foods
- infant foods
- religious or cultural foods
- soap, shampoo, toilet paper, or other personal care items sold in grocery stores
This chart shows the weekly cost of the Nutritious Food Basket for 22 groups and a reference family of four.
|Boys||2 - 3||$26.52|
|Boys||4 - 8||$34.03|
|Girls||2 - 3||$26.04|
|Girls||4 - 8||$33.08|
|Males||9 - 13||$44.85|
|Males||14 - 18||$64.17|
|Males||19 - 30||$62.70|
|Males||31 - 50||$56.64|
|Males||51 - 70||$54.42|
|Females||9 - 13||$38.59|
|Females||14 - 18||$46.29|
|Females||19 - 30||$48.86|
|Females||31 - 50||$48.14|
|Females||51 - 70||$42.06|
|Pregnant women||18 & under||$51.78|
|Pregnant women||19 - 30||$52.57|
|Pregnant women||31 - 50||$51.25|
|Breastfeeding women||18 & under||$53.64|
|Breastfeeding women||19 - 30||$55.89|
|Breastfeeding women||31 - 50||$54.57|
|Reference family of four||Male 31-50, Female 31-50, Boy 14 and Girl 7||$202.03|
The cost of the NFB and rental housing can be compared to several individual and family income scenarios to determine whether food is affordable.
Some households have very little money left after paying for rent and food which makes it hard for them to afford other expenses. Low income households are often forced to choose between buying healthy food and other necessities such as:
- Heat/hydro (if not included in monthly rent)
- Child care
- School supplies and expenses
- Clothing and shoes
- Medical expenses not covered by OHIP
- Vision and dental care
- Personal care (e.g., haircuts, hygiene products)
|*Average monthly rent
(% of income needed for rent)
|**Monthly cost of NFB
(% of income needed for a NFB)
|***Funds remaining each month|
|Family of four
(48% of income)
(33% of income)
|Family of four
Full-time minimum wage earner
(35% of income)
(24% of income)
|Family of four
Median Ontario income (after tax)
(16% of income)
(11% of income)
(45% of income)
(27% of income)
(93% of income)
(36% of income)
Ontario Disability Support Program
|$1,272||1-bedroom for accessibility $923
(73% of income)
(23% of income)
Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income Supplement
(53% of income)
(12% of income)
Numbers are rounded to the nearest dollar
*Average monthly apartment rental costs provided by Housing Services Division, Healthy and Safe Communities Department, City of Hamilton, based on Rental Market Report, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Fall 2018. May include heat/hydro.
** Nutritious Food Basket survey May 2019, Public Health Services, Healthy and Safe Communities Department, City of Hamilton, including Household Size Adjustment Factors.
***Remaining funds available for heat/hydro if not included in rent, childcare, clothing, transportation, school supplies and everything else.
For complete data, please contact Mary Ellen Prange, Healthy Environments Division, Healthy and Safe Communities Department [email protected].
Food Insecurity in Hamilton
Did you know?
Food insecurity is not having enough money to buy food needed for good health. More than 1 in 7 Hamilton households experience food insecurity.
People living with food insecurity may:
- Worry about running out of food
- Eat little or no fresh vegetables, fruit, milk and meat
- Choose cheaper, lower-quality food
- Eat the same few foods for all their meals
Eat less food than they need
- Go without eating so their children can eat
- Skip meals
- Go a whole day or several days without eating
Who experiences food insecurity?
Households with employment income make up the majority of food insecure households. In 2014, over 60% of Canadians who were food insecure reported employment as their main source of income. Low-waged jobs and inconsistent work leave many without enough income to buy food.
Many who receive social assistance in Ontario are food-insecure. In 2014, almost two-thirds of Ontario households receiving social assistance reported food insecurity. The high rates of food insecurity among households receiving social assistance in Ontario suggest that it fails to meet recipients’ basic needs.
The negative impacts of food insecurity
Not having enough money to buy healthy food leads to poor health. Adults living with food insecurity are more likely to have conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, while children and teens are more likely to have poor mental health.
Being food insecure is linked with using more health care. Annual health care costs are 121% higher in households with severe food insecurity.
Taking action on food insecurity
Food insecurity is the result of not having enough money to buy food.
Community food programs, such as food banks, community meals, community gardens and kitchens provide short-term relief for those in need. Many also offer other supports and services. For information on programs and services in Hamilton, please refer to the Hamilton Food Access Guide.
Other solutions are needed to tackle the root cause of food insecurity, which is lack of money to buy enough food. Policies, tax benefits, and programs that help people afford the costs of living are needed. These include: