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Canadians are facing higher levels of food insecurity

We’ve all seen prices in grocery stores lately. Wherever you live in Canada, there is no question that grocery bills are getting more expensive. From 2021 to 2022, prices for food purchased from stores increased by 9.8% on average nationally. This year-over-year growth is a continuing trend, with food prices up by 19.1% from 2018 to 2022. The rise in food prices could be contributing to more Canadians experiencing food insecurity. We are bringing this to your attention so that you have knowledge and understanding.

What is food insecurity?

The Canadian Income Survey (CIS) measures food insecurity using the Household Food Security Survey Module. Based on a household’s experience caused by a lack of money for food, food insecurity can be categorized as marginal, moderate or severe.

Marginal food insecurity means worrying about running out of food or having a limited selection of food. Moderate food insecurity means compromising in the quality or quantity of food. Severe food insecurity means missing meals, having a reduced food intake and, at the most extreme, going day(s) without food.

Food insecurity in this article refers to people living in households that experienced moderate or severe food insecurity. As Canadians who reported marginal food insecurity did not compromise on the quality or quantity of the food they purchased, they have been grouped with those that did not report any food insecurity.

More people are living in food-insecure households

In 2022, 16.9% of Canadians were food insecure, compared with 12.9% in 2021. Overall, the proportion of individuals in households experiencing food insecurity has increased by 5.3 percentage points from 2018 to 2022.

Close to 1 in 10 (9.9%) Canadians were living in poverty in 2022. An individual or family with a disposable income below the appropriate Market Basket Measure (MBM) threshold, for the size of the family and the region of residence, is considered to be living in poverty. The MBM is Canada’s Official Poverty Line. Food insecurity was greater for people living in poverty (34.0%) than for people not living in poverty (15.0%). From 2018 to 2022, food insecurity has increased for both those living in poverty (by +3.6 percentage points) and those not living in poverty (by +5.8 percentage points).

Chart 1:  Proportion of individuals in food insecurity by poverty status, Canada, 2018 to 2022

Description- Chart 1 Proportion of individuals in food insecurity by poverty status, Canada, 2018 to 2022

Food insecurity across the provinces

The proportion of the population experiencing food insecurity is different in each province. In Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, nearly half (47.6%) the people who were living in poverty were also experiencing food insecurity in 2022. Those living in poverty in British Columbia, the most western province in Canada, had a food insecurity rate of 28.5%. For people not living in poverty, Quebec had the lowest rate of food insecurity in 2022 at 9.3%, while the remaining provinces had relatively similar rates.

Chart 2:  Proportion of individuals in food insecurity by poverty status and province, 2022

Some family types are at a greater risk of experiencing food insecurity

Data from the 2022 CIS show that certain family types are more vulnerable to living in a household that is food insecure. For example, people in lone-parent families were at the greatest risk of experiencing food insecurity compared with people in other family types. About one-third (34.0%) of people living in lone-parent families faced food insecurity in 2022. Looking at this family type in more detail, we see that 36.5% of people in female lone-parent families were food insecure, compared with 23.2% of people in male lone-parent families.

Children living in lone-parent families were also at a greater risk of experiencing food insecurity (36.4%), compared with children living in couple families (18.3%) and children living in other family types (18.6%).

Chart 3:  Illustration of the percentage of individuals that are in food insecurity by family type, Canada, 2022

What can we do? Lots! We should be alert to the situation of those in need and listen to their concerns. We can donate to the Helping Hand Food Bank with food and with monetary donations. We can encourage those who volunteer at the food bank, so that they will continue to do the good work that they do. So that together as a community we can cultivate virtues of generosity, patience and kindness.


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