by: Slav Kornik

Edmonton – A new report shows about 12 per cent of Albertans can’t afford healthy and nutritious food.

“That’s really what we’re concerned about. We know there’s a problem,” says John Kolkman, Research Coordinator with the Edmonton Planning Council.

“Vital Signs Edmonton – a report on food security” has been released by the Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) and the Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC). The focus of the report is how to help more people have access to health and nutritious food.

According to the study, the average family of four spends $210 per week on healthy and nutritious food or over $800 per month. Kolkman says families on a limited income are left with a decision to make.

“People have to pay their rent, have to pay their utilities or they’re going to end up homeless and it’s food where they often shortchange themselves simply because they can’t afford to purchase healthy nutritious food.”

Kolkman says initiatives like the Food Bank, community gardens, farmers markets, and meal programs in schools can help to reduce the problem.

According to “Vital Signs,” one in five workers in metro Edmonton earns $15 an hour or less.

The ESPC has also released the 2013 edition of “Tracking the Trends.” The report provides detailed analysis of social and economic trends in Edmonton.

Kolkman says “Tracking the Trends” shows the city’s economy has recovered from the 2009 recession, but it has benefitted those with the highest income the most.

Kolkman points out several concerning trends the report identifies:

  • Between 1990 and 2010, the share of the top one per cent of Edmonton income earners rose by almost three percentage points to 8.9% after tax
  • 39,000 children living in poverty in the metro Edmonton area in 2011, more than double the 16,000 in 2006
  • A record 59.2 per cent of poor children live in families where at least one parent works full-time for the full-year
  • While homelessness is down 29.4 per cent over all age categories since 2008, there was a 68 per cent increase in the number of homeless youth in 2012
  • A 1.2 per cent rental vacancy rate in April 2013, tied with 2006 as the lowest on record. Rent is up 4.2 per cent compared to a year earlier

Kolkman points out the “Tracking the Trends” isn’t all “doom and gloom.” He says the report has also found positive trends, like strong employment growth (the number of employed Edmontonians has increased by 31.5 per cent between 2002 and 2012 according to the report), women are narrowing the earnings gap with men, and the report shows the number of people receiving social assistance, employment insurance and food bank use has dropped.

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