All About Estates

What Does A Healthy Meal Cost?

A complimentary copy of the Saturday Star was delivered to my door so I had the pleasure of holding a newspaper in my hand while enjoying my morning coffee (note: we have gone ‘paperless’ and I am not a happy convert). The headlines grabbed my attention: ‘Nursing homes feed seniors on $8.33 a day’.

This is not very much money- especially as I calculated the cost of my Nespresso ($.75) and croissant ($3.00). Healthy food is required by all of us- regardless of age. Much of our social society is built around meal times and the ability to engage and interact with others while enjoying a good meal. Not all of us have the ability to live out our days in our own homes. In December 2015 there were 76,982 long-stay patient beds(1).

For these individuals living in LTC, going to the dining room for a meal may be their only ‘out of room’ activity and for many, it is the highlight of their day. The newspaper article also discussed the lack of culturally appropriate or comfort food that is currently available in most facilities- due to this low budget. Most critically, the Dieticians of Canada in a 2015 report identified the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables available to residents. The number 1 response of the dieticians in this survey when asked “if you had additional funds for the raw food budget, what changes would you make to your menu or food purchases” was ‘improved proteins’.         A sad headline I thought, while washing the newsprint off of my hands.

Ps. I was curious about the provincial funding (2)for long-term care in Ontario and have included it below:
 $4.07 billion (7.9% of the overall provincial health budget)
 $142.47 per resident, per day ($52,000 per year)
 Approximately $94.37 per day for nursing and personal care (such as assistance with personal hygiene, bathing, eating, and toileting)
 $11.60 per day for specialized therapies, recreational programs, and support services
 $8.33 per day for raw food (ingredients used to prepare meals)

2. Source: 2016 Ontario Budget, LTCH Level-of-Care Per Diem Funding Summary (July 1, 2016)

About Audrey Miller
About: Audrey Miller, Managing Director of Elder Caring Inc. has over 30 years social work and rehabilitation experience working with older individuals and their families. She advises the financial, insurance, legal and business communities regarding elder care issues. Audrey is a recognized expert in her field. Email:


  1. Blair Botsford

    March 13, 2017 - 2:47 pm

    The budget for food is not as crazy as it sounds if you break down the elements of healthy meals throughout the day as well as considering the savings from buying in bulk, cooking in bulk, and making desserts from scratch. When I look at my own budget, then deduct out the junk food and food waste, I come close and I buy good quality food. However, I put my coffee and related treats under my “dining” budget. If I made a sincere effort to just eat healthy, and did not need to dine out occasionally, $8.33 per day would be a good estimate.

    It would still be nice to see a bump in the food budget for LTC to ensure good quality, variety and adequate portions. There’s also the issue of how individual homes manage their budgets. I’ve seen significantly different approaches to food between care facilities. Either some are not spending the full $8.33 or some are spending more from some other source.

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