The Regional Municipality of Durham lies directly east of Toronto. It’s almost a microcosm of Canada in that its 2500 square kilometers encompass serious suburbanization, some heavy industry, much commerical activity, farm land, rolling hills and areas where outdoor recreation including hunting and fishing is commonplace. By and large the people of Durham Region are among some of the healthiest, best fed and most secure human beings in this unbalanced world. Starting in the late 2000s, as the real estate/automobile industrial complex, so long the paymaster in Ontario, began to show signs of weirdness in terms of its future performance, a certain amount of poverty has come to be red flagged in Durham Region.
To take the understanding of suburban poverty beyond one-off profiles of people living in it requires detailed investigation and meaningful data attached to real experience. That makes a recent document from the authorities in Durham of genuine interest.
The Price of Eating Well in Durham Region looks at one of the major impacts on family and personal well-being and concerns elucidated here can be found elsewhere. The report looks at the cost of a simple, metaphoric basket of nutritious foods for a week for a family of four. The cost of that metaphoric basket since 2009 has gone up by about $45. Luckily, Durham appears to be a cheaper place to live than the rest of the province, for which there is also some comparative data. Either way, about 8% of households in Durham experience food insecurity which generally means lowered quality and amount of food in those households.
Recipients of government support and low wages are under extra pressure in this respect. More widely, the entire region is vulnerable to increases in energy prices, especially gasoline for personal motor vehicles (oversized, truck-style models are seen in abundance in Durham), and uncertainty exists over the future direction of real estate prices and the encroachment onto farm land of residential development.
The latter might seem a little ironic, the ongoing conversion of agricultural land into subdivisions and commercial property, in a place where food insecurity is now, pardon the pun, on the table. Certainly, the laws for doing so are quite strict compared to past decades but perhaps real estate development has captured a little too much of the imagination in Durham, as in other places touching the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area. As with the country at large, Durham has too much child poverty and food bank use is a permanent feature of life for many, including people with jobs.
This particular report, and ones like it, merits attention and represents the detail needed to understand poverty.
The Price of Eating Well in Durham Region
7-page .pdf file
Poverty report raises red flags for Durham groups
Social Planning Network of Ontario: CDC Durham
Links to a variety of reports 2007-2011
image: Two vistas from near Oshawa, one of Canada’s rock capitals and commercial centre of Durham Region via SeRVe61 & Rick Harris – Wikimedia Commons