Released this week, the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Annual Report on Canadians' Health found startling differences between the cost and accessibility of basic heart healthy food within provinces and across the country.
Some Canadians are often paying more up to six times more than fellow citizens in other provinces for the same healthy foods like fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grain pasta.
For example, six apples ranged from $1.71 in Edmonton to $5.02 in Calgary. Even in Ontario, where apples are grown regionally, the cost varied from 90 cents in Peterborough to $5.49 in Dryden.
Price variations in grain products were most startling. A package of whole-wheat pasta that cost $2.00 in Barrie, Ont, but the same package cost $7.90 in Regina, Saskatchewan, a prairie province with numerous grain farmers.
Almost half of Canadians said they were going without fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products, whole grain products, lean meat or fish because they are too expensive, explaining why one in five Canadians occasionally go without vegetables and fruits and almost one-quarter of Canadians occasionally went without lean meat and poultry.
Finding healthy food in their usual grocery store was also found to a problem for many Canadians.
For instance, one in three stores surveyed didn't carry affordable heart healthy foods like dried beans and frozen spinach. One in five stores had no un-breaded frozen fish and fresh chicken legs could not be found in more than 10% of the stores that were visited.
Unhealthy snacks - pop, chips, cookies and cakes - are the only items that showed little price or availability variations across the country.
The Foundation is calling on governments to monitor and periodically report on the price of core staples to help create a level playing field for all Canadians. Food manufacturers, retailers and marketing boards also need to explore food pricing and promotion inconsistencies within and between communities in Canada.
"Healthy eating is a key factor in preventing heart disease," says Dr. Beth Abramson, Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson and cardiologist. "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."
For more details on the Heart Stroke Foundation's Report Card on Health, visit http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ikIQLcMWJtE&b=4955951&ct=6715269.
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