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.
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 61 food items in seven grocery stores in Hamilton. The items on the survey are based on the food groupings in Canada’s Food Guide (vegetables and fruit, whole grains and protein foods) and reflect Canadian eating and purchasing patterns.
The NFB does not include certain types of food and other items such as:
- frozen meals
- 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 to 3||$37.18|
|Boys||4 to 8||$42.16|
|Girls||2 to 3||$37.18|
|Girls||4 to 8||$41.69|
|Males||9 to 13||$54.63|
|Males||14 to 18||$66.62|
|Males||19 to 30||$76.37|
|Males||31 to 50||$71.93|
|Males||51 to 70||$63.08|
|Females||9 to 13||$53.95|
|Females||14 to 18||$53.95|
|Females||19 to 30||$58.83|
|Females||31 to 50||$57.78|
|Females||51 to 70||$53.03|
|Pregnant||18 and younger||$63.96|
|Pregnant||19 to 30||$68.11|
|Pregnant||31 to 50||$66.98|
|Breastfeeding||18 and younger||$63.58|
|Breastfeeding||19 to 30||$67.41|
|Breastfeeding||31 to 50||$66.98|
|Reference Family of Four||Two adults 31 to 50; boy 14; girl 7||$238.02|
*Includes an additional 5% for miscellaneous items such as condiments, spices, tea, coffee
The cost of the NFB and rental housing can be compared to 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)
- Prescription medications
|*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
|$2760.00||3-bedroom $1479.00 (54% of income)||$1031.00
(37% of income)
|Family of four
Full-time minimum wage earner
|$3973.00||3-bedroom $1479.00 (37% of income)||$1031.00
(26% of income)
|Family of four
Median Ontario income (after tax)
|$9323.00||3-bedroom $1479.00 (16% of income)||
|$2528.00||2-bedroom $1271.00 (50% of income)||$755.00
(30% of income)
(106% of income)
(43% of income)
Ontario Disability Support Program
|$1309.00||1-bedroom $1095.00 (84% of income)||$374.00
(29% of income)
Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income Supplement
|$1885.00||1- bedroom $1095.00 (58% of income)||$264.00
(14% 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 2021. May include heat/hydro.
** Nutritious Food Basket survey June 2022, Public Health Services, Healthy and Safe Communities Department, City of Hamilton (includes Household Size Adjustment Factors).
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. Almost one in five Hamilton households lives with food insecurity, with the majority experiencing moderate to severe food insecurity. This means that Hamiltonians living in these households are not always able to eat an adequate quality or quantity of food, or at the most extreme, are not able to eat for a whole day or more because of a lack to money to buy food.
Reference: Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). Household food insecurity estimates from the Canadian Income Survey: Ontario 2018-2020. Toronto, ON: King’s Printer for Ontario; 2023.
People living with food insecurity may:
- Worry about running out of food
- Eat foods of lower nutritional quality
- 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
Food Insecurity in Ontario
In 2021, 16.1% of Ontario households experienced food insecurity. This translates to 2,340,000 people living in food insecure households.
Who experiences food insecurity?
- In 2021, just over half (51.9%) of Canadians living in the 10 provinces who were food insecure reported employment as their main source of income.1 Low-waged jobs and inconsistent work leave too many workers without enough income to buy food.
- Among Ontarians who receive social assistance, approximately two-thirds (67.2%) reported food insecurity in 2021.1 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
- Food insecurity is a serious public health problem because individuals’ health and well-being are closely linked to their household food security.
- People living in food insecure households are much more likely than others to be diagnosed with mental health disorders, chronic diseases (such as high blood pressure and diabetes) and infections. People who are food insecure are less able to manage chronic conditions and are more likely to experience poor outcomes (such as hospitalization or premature death). Because of its harmful effects on health, household food insecurity causes a large burden on the health care system.1
Taking action on food insecurity
Food insecurity is the result of not having enough money to buy food.
Food programs such as food banks, community fridges and community gardens may provide short-term relief for people experiencing food insecurity. Some of these programs 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:
- social assistance programs that provide adequate benefits
- jobs that pay living wages
- a basic income guarantee
- affordable housing, public transit and child care
- Free income tax filing support
1 Tarasuk V, Li T, Fafard St-Germain AA. (2022) Household food insecurity in Canada, 2021. Toronto: Research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity (PROOF). Retrieved from https://proof.utoronto.ca/