To assess the ability of low-income families to obtain a standard basket of healthy foods before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The costs of 191 food items were averaged from supermarkets, municipal markets, wholesalers, and community food outlets in high- and low-income areas in three Caribbean countries. The analysis compared foods not only by selecting high- and low-ranked commodities but by the proportions of those foods, by food group, that will be required to meet a low-cost, nutritionally balanced diet of 2 400 kcal.
The main finding was that low-income households will need between 22% and 47% of their earnings to obtain a healthy diet. Despite higher food prices in Saint Kitts and Nevis, low-income households there will need a smaller proportion of their income to obtain a similar basket of foods than in Jamaica or Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has added economic stressors to low-income households the basic vulnerability of the poor to obtain a healthy diet remains. Despite country variations, the findings point to the need for an increase in the minimum wage, particularly in Jamaica. It is essential to embed policies that ensure reduced economic and social vulnerability at the household level.