Map of Simcoe Muskoka

Determinants Of Health

Nutritious Food Basket

Since the early 1990s, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) and other public health units across Ontario have been mandated to monitor food affordability using the Nutritious Food Basket (NFB). NFB survey results are used as a benchmark measure of the cost of basic healthy eating across Simcoe Muskoka and to assess whether or not lower-income residents of the region are likely to have enough income to pay for a healthy diet when the cost of housing is also considered. Although the new Ontario Public Health Standards (2018) do not include an NFB protocol, there is still a requirement for health units to monitor food affordability in the Population Health Assessment and Surveillance Protocol, 2018.

To fulfill this requirement SMDHU and other health units conducting the NFB in 2018 have continued to follow the NFB Protocol (2014) and NFB Guidance Document (2010) in place in previous years.  In May of 2018, health unit staff conducted the survey in Simcoe County and in the District of Muskoka separately, visiting a sample of six grocery stores in each area. In each store, surveyors recorded the price of 67 specific food items that could be used to prepare meals and snacks consistent with healthy eating patterns recommended in Canada’s Food Guide.

According to May 2018 survey results, the monthly cost of the NFB for a reference family of four (a man and a woman each aged 31-50 years, a boy aged 14-18 years and a girl aged 4-8 years) would be  $869.25 per month for Simcoe County and  $909.30 per month for the District of Muskoka. For Simcoe Muskoka combined, the monthly cost of the NFB in May 2018 for the reference family of four would be $862.23. The 2018 Simcoe Muskoka data on the weekly cost of the NFB for males and females by age group is available upon request.

NFB figures are regional averages only and are not appropriate for use as a food budgeting tool for individuals and families.

It is important to note that due to the unique characteristics of each area it is NOT appropriate to compare Simcoe and Muskoka results with one another.

For Simcoe Muskoka combined, the monthly cost of the NFB in May 2018 for the reference family of four was $862.23 per month, which is $167.74 more per month than in May 2010. This represents a 24% increase in NFB cost over an eight year period - an increase of $2012.88 more per year in 2017 than in 2010.

Health units use local NFB survey results and apartment rents to assess whether income from social assistance, pensions or minimum wage employment is sufficient to cover the cost of healthy food and rent. Unfortunately, year after year, NFB survey results indicate that Simcoe Muskoka residents living on low incomes are unlikely to have enough money to cover these basics. For people receiving social assistance or working for minimum wage, the cost of food and rent (based on local Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation Market Rental Report data) is likely to use up most of their income, and in some cases exceed it, even before considering other costs such as basic phone service, transportation, school supplies, household and personal care items. In 2018 SMDHU and other health units have taken an additional step and assessed the impact of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot amount on the money individuals and families would have available for food and rent. For more details on whether income from social assistance, minimum wage work or a basic income is enough to pay for food and rent review the Household Food Insecurity page.

For more important information about the Nutritious Food Basket, review the NFB Data Source page.