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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 105, Issue 3, pp e158–e165 | Cite as

Is the minimum enough? Affordability of a nutritious diet for minimum wage earners in Nova Scotia (2002–2012)

  • Felicia D. Newell
  • Patricia L. WilliamsEmail author
  • Cynthia G. Watt
Quantitative Research
  • 2 Downloads

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: This paper aims to assess the affordability of a nutritious diet for households earning minimum wage in Nova Scotia (NS) from 2002 to 2012 using an economic simulation that includes food costing and secondary data.

METHODS: The cost of the National Nutritious Food Basket (NNFB) was assessed with a stratified, random sample of grocery stores in NS during six time periods: 2002, 2004/2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012. The NNFB’s cost was factored into affordability scenarios for three different household types relying on minimum wage earnings: a household of four; a lone mother with three children; and a lone man. Essential monthly living expenses were deducted from monthly net incomes using methods that were standardized from 2002 to 2012 to determine whether adequate funds remained to purchase a basic nutritious diet across the six time periods.

RESULTS: A 79% increase to the minimum wage in NS has resulted in a decrease in the potential deficit faced by each household scenario in the period examined. However, the household of four and the lone mother with three children would still face monthly deficits ($44.89 and $496.77, respectively, in 2012) if they were to purchase a nutritiously sufficient diet.

CONCLUSION: As a social determinant of health, risk of food insecurity is a critical public health issue for low wage earners. While it is essential to increase the minimum wage in the short term, adequately addressing income adequacy in NS and elsewhere requires a shift in thinking from a focus on minimum wage towards more comprehensive policies ensuring an adequate livable income for everyone.

Key Words

Nutrition policy minimum wage family finance low-income population food security food insecurity poverty social policy income inequalities food costing 

Résumé

OBJECTIF: Évaluer l’abordabilité d’un régime alimentaire nutritif pour les ménages qui gagnaient le salaire minimum en Nouvelle-Écosse (N.-É.) de 2002 à 2012, à l’aide d’une simulation économique incluant des données de calcul des coûts des aliments et des données secondaires.

MÉTHODE: Nous avons calculé le coût du Panier à provisions nutritif national (PPNN) dans un échantillon aléatoire d’épiceries de la N.-É. au cours de six périodes (2002, 2004-2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 et 2012). Nous avons intégré le coût du PPNN dans des scénarios d’abordabilité pour trois types de ménages au salaire minimum: une famille de quatre personnes; une mère de famille monoparentale avec trois enfants; et un homme seul. Nous avons déduit les frais de subsistance mensuels de base du revenu net mensuel à l’aide de méthodes standardisées, de 2002 à 2012, pour déterminer s’il restait suffisamment d’argent pour acheter les aliments de base d’un régime nutritif au cours des six périodes.

RÉSULTATS: Une hausse de 79 % du salaire minimum en N.-É. a entraîné une baisse du déficit potentiel des ménages selon chaque scénario durant la période à l’étude. Cependant, le ménage de quatre personnes et celui de la mère de famille monoparentale avec trois enfants seraient encore confrontés à des déficits mensuels (de 44,89 $ et de 496,77 $, respectivement, en 2012) s’ils devaient acheter les aliments d’un régime suffisamment nutritif.

CONCLUSION: Le risque d’insécurité alimentaire, en tant que déterminant social de la santé, est un grave problème de santé publique pour les petits salariés. Nous reconnaissons qu’il est essentiel de hausser le salaire minimum à court terme, mais pour aborder convenablement la suffisance des revenus en N.-É. et ailleurs, il faut modifier notre façon de penser en insistant moins sur le salaire minimum et davantage sur des politiques plus globales, qui assurent un revenu de subsistance suffisant à tout le monde.

Mots Clés

politique nutritionnelle salaire minimum budget familial population à faible revenu sécurité alimentaire insécurité alimentaire pauvreté politique sociale inégalités des revenus calcul des coûts des aliments 

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Felicia D. Newell
    • 1
  • Patricia L. Williams
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cynthia G. Watt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Applied Human Nutrition, Food Action Research CentreMount Saint Vincent UniversityHalifaxCanada

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