The high cost of food continues to make healthy eating difficult, if not impossible, a recent survey by the Perth District Health Unit suggests.

Each year the PDHU monitors the affordability of food in the region by visiting six local grocery stores to find the average total cost of 67 basic food items such as vegetables, fruit, meat, bread, eggs, and milk.

In 2016, the cost of this Nutritious Food Basket for a family of four was $210.51 per week, or $911.51 per month. Those figures are similar to the cost in 2015, but is an increase of $15.97 per week from 2014.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the United Nations ratifying children’s rights, Saskatchewan’s child advocate says provincial efforts to pull youth out of poverty are insufficient.

“It almost seems like we’ve gone backwards,” advocate Corey O’Soup said.

He cited a recently released Campaign 2000 study which showed a quarter of Sask. youth live in poverty. The report states that number is significantly higher than the 18.5 per cent national average.

According to the study, in Prince Albert’s riding between 20 and 30 per cent of youth are impoverished.

The fund, worth $500,000 in total, goes towards projects tied to one of five territorial anti-poverty strategy pillars:

Child and family support

Healthy living and reaching potential

Safe and affordable housing

Sustainable communities

Integrated continuum of service

Last year, the fund received approximately $200 million worth of requests for funding – 400 times its budget.

Despite such a sizable difference in supply and demand, Minister of Health and Social Services Glen Abernethy says there are no plans to increase the current fund.

Almost 213,000 Hydro One customers spent 10 per cent or more of their disposable household income on electricity bills in 2015, according to data obtained exclusively by Global News.

And for more than 37,000 Ontarians, nearly 30 per cent of their income went to paying for electricity.

That means more than one-fifth of the energy distributor’s 950,000 residential customers use between 25 and 400 per cent more of their available income than the anti-poverty advocacy group Low-Income Energy Network recommends

At the risk of interrupting the lovefest between Hydro One Executive vice-president Ferio Pugliese and Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault over reconnecting some 1,400 of its residential customers after they were disconnected for failure to pay their bills, can I ask the elephant in the room question: why on earth were they cut off in the cold of winter to begin with?

It was downright nauseating to hear Pugliese crow about Hydro One’s “program” being about “doing the right thing for customers experiencing hardship.” He added in typical Hydro One doublespeak that they were currently reviewing all “customer-facing policies and practices.”

My last report as Ontario’s Ombudsman, titled “In the Dark” in May 2015, detailed how Hydro One cunningly threatened customers with bogus disconnection extortion in winter if they didn’t pay up. But it was all a bluff — they were never going to follow through with it. I wrote then: “I am pleased that Hydro One has finally moved to take action to stop collection efforts through intimidation and deceit, and that it has finally come clean about its winter disconnection moratorium. However, its protracted and reticent response to this issue suggests that it still clings to the vestiges of a private sector mentality and lacks a public service vision.”

Now it seems that idle threats to cut the Hydro One cord are no more. They have gone one step further and cut off about 1,400 people from electricity in the middle of winter.

Shelling out an additional $420 for groceries next year could put the country’s most vulnerable populations at greater risk for malnutrition, experts warn.

Diana Bronson, executive director at Food Secure Canada, said if food prices go up between three and five per cent in 2017 as identified in a report earlier this week, low-income families and those living in northern communities will suffer the most.

“We already have 4 million Canadians that have trouble putting a healthy diet in front of their families,” Bronson said. “It’s just going to get worse.”

Hydro One is promising to have 1,400 customers back on the grid in time for Christmas after their electricity was cut off for failing to pay their bills.

The pledge came Wednesday with the provincial government under pressure over hydro prices that have put too many Ontarians into what opposition parties call “energy poverty.”

“We’re working through each of the cases,” said Ferio Pugliese, the utility’s executive vice-president of customer care.

“It’ll take us the better part of the next five to seven days to get to them all.”

Reconnection fees, which can reach up to $300 and are a barrier to many customers, are being waived. The accounts being reconnected are in arrears as much as $10,000, but most are under $1,000. About 500 are for premises that are now vacant.