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2012 Ford Explorer Limited 4WD. Click image to enlarge
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Article and photos by Chris Chase

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Food, like most things, isn’t getting any cheaper. I notice it in my own grocery bills, which are a lot higher now than they were five years ago when my wife and I bought our first house and our finances started demanding closer attention.

The Nutritious Food Basket is an initiative of the Ontario Ministry of Health that tracks the cost of feeding a “typical” family of four for a month. Municipalities perform an annual study according to ministry guidelines that set out how much food that family would need to buy every month in order to maintain a healthy diet. This year, the Ottawa study showed that monthly cost is at least $759.

Long term test: 2012 Ford Explorer, Part two videos car test drives reviews long term auto tests ford auto articles
Long term test: 2012 Ford Explorer, Part two videos car test drives reviews long term auto tests ford auto articles
In the lead-up to Christmas, the Kanata Food Cupboard’s twice-weekly grocery store donation pickup is enough to fill the Explorer twice, with a total of about 2,000 lbs (literally, a ton) of food. Click image to enlarge

In this case, the theoretical family consists of a man and woman, each between the ages of 31 and 50; a boy aged 14 to 18; and a girl of between four and eight years old. The study breaks down the cost of feeding each member of that family, based on a chart that links the cost of eating to gender and age: boys eat more than girls, older children eat more than younger ones, and adults tend to eat less as they age beyond about 30 years old.

The numbers in this study interested me, because that monthly total of $759 is a little more than what my wife and I typically spend on groceries in a month, and there are only two of us. In other words, for a family of four, this study is talking about just enough food to get by on. In the southern Ontario region of Chatham-Kent, that monthly tab went up to about $730 a month for 2011, compared with about $686 in 2010. Forty-four dollars a month isn’t much for many, but for a single-income family, particularly if that income is modest, that amount of money makes a big difference. According to the Chatham-Kent study, a family with one wage earner in a full-time, minimum-wage job must spend 28 per cent of its monthly budget on food. For a family living on a single median income in Ontario, groceries take up 13 per cent of the budget.

Bear in mind that the numbers I’m throwing around here only include basic food needs. All of the other stuff that a household needs – toiletries, cleaning supplies, clothing – costs over and above the monthly costs listed above.

It’s easy enough to see how many individuals – never mind families – might have a hard time making ends meet, and that’s where food banks like the Kanata Food Cupboard come in. It’s easy to forget that there are disadvantaged and “working poor” families living in the suburbs, where the middle class (and wealthier demographics) tend to dominate.