Canadians say fresh, healthy food too expensive: Poll

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TORONTO — Almost half of Canadians say they are going without fresh, healthy food because it is too expensive, according to a national poll released Monday by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

The poll showed 47 per cent of Canadians don’t buy fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy and whole grain products, lean meat or fish because of the cost.

The foundation’s annual report on Canadians’ Health also revealed what it called “startling discrepancies” in the cost and availability of basic healthy food from province to province.

“Depending on where you live, some Canadians are often paying more than double to almost six times the price for the same basic healthy food,” the report said.

The foundation said governments need to “create a level playing field” for consumers.

“Many provincial governments regulate the price of alcohol across provinces, but healthy food is subject to significant price variations from one community to the next,” said foundation spokesman Stephen Samis.

“You have to wonder why we control the price of alcohol but allow such price inconsistencies for healthy food — and not just in remote regions of the country — but even between larger metropolitan areas.”

For example, the poll found the cost of six apples ranged from $1.71 in Edmonton to $5.02 in Calgary. In Ontario, where apples are grown regionally, the cost varied from 90 cents in Peterborough to $5.49 in Dryden. A 2.7 kg bag of potatoes ranged from $1.50 in Toronto to $2.15 in Whitehorse, to $6.95 in Yellowknife, N.W.T.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation said the wide variation in the cost of healthy food is even more disturbing when compared to the relatively stable price of pop, chips and cookies.

“Healthy eating is a key factor in preventing heart disease,” cardiologist Dr. Beth Abramson, said Monday. “This report should serve as a wake-up call that healthy eating is in danger of being out of reach for many Canadians, a problem which may only get worse given the current downturn in the economy.”

Last October, the Heart and Stroke Foundation had volunteer shoppers in 66 communities across Canada purchase a list of healthy foods for a family of four for one week.

It found some of the most “disturbing” data was reflected in the price variations of grain products. For example, a package of whole-wheat pasta that cost $2 in Barrie, Ont., was $7.90 in Regina, Sask., and $11.37 in Dawson City, Yukon. A bag of brown rice ranged from $2.19 in Toronto to $7.76 in Winnipeg, to $11.99 in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

In the case of both milk and cheese, the survey found prices could be more than double depending on where you live.

A pound of lean ground beef could range from $13.21 in Ottawa to $4.99 in Peterborough, Ont. and the Yukon.

The foundation said these price variations may explain why almost half of adults and 70 per cent children in Canada don’t consume the minimum recommended servings of vegetables and fruit established by Canada’s Food Guide.

“This can only encourage unhealthy eating behaviour that will ultimately lead to obesity and risk factors for heart disease,” Abramson said.

 The situation was found to be even worse for First Nations people and Inuit, many of whom live in isolated communities.

In northern Ontario, four litres of milk was $15.70 in Bearskin Lake, compared to $3.49 in Vancouver. A package of whole-wheat pasta was $8.68, compared to $2.00 in Barrie, Ont. Other high cost items included: $10.99 for six oranges; $7.45 for six apples; and $10.88 for a 2.7 kg. bag of carrots. Survey shoppers also found that many healthy foods including chicken legs, frozen fish, fresh tomatoes, fresh broccoli, canned corn, canned peas, frozen mixed vegetables, potatoes and brown rice weren’t available at all in Bearskin Lake.

The study also found that healthy foods such as dried beans and frozen spinach were unavailable in almost one in three grocery stores where the foundation shopped.

The only items that showed little price variation and accessibility from one community to the next were pop, chips and cookies, which Canada’s Food Guide recommends be consumed less frequently.

Now on top of all that add to that how food manufacturers, drug stores do also make big  profits on health related items

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