By the Numbers: Food Security in Canada

by the numbersOttawa – October 16, 2013 – Today is World Food Day, dedicated to raising awareness about the essential issue of food security, which directly impacts millions of people around the globe – including Canada.

According to a report entitled Household Food Insecurity in Canada, produced by a research team from the University of Toronto, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Calgary, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, about 1.6 million Canadian households were unable to meet their basic food needs in 2011.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, food security exists when “all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

Food insecurity indicates deprivation in terms of a basic human need: access to nutritious food in sufficient quantities and of sufficient quality to maintain good health.

Canada is ranked 11th in the Human Development Index  and has a GDP of USD 52, 218.

1 in 8 Canadian families struggled to put food on the table.

3.9 million individuals were affected by food insecurity in 2011, due to financial constraints.

1.1 million children or one in six were living in households were food was scarce.

17% of all children under the age of 18 live in food insecure homes.

There were 450,000 more Canadians not having access to regular, healthy meals in 2011 than in 2008.

1 in 4 children in the provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (PEI) were living in struggling households, few of the provinces with highest rates of food insecurity.

56.5% is the proportion of children living in households unable to meet their basic food needs in Nunavut, the highest rate in the country.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest rate of household insecurity at 10.6% compared to 15.7% in 2007, thanks in part to an aggressive poverty reduction strategy launched in 2006.

The likelihood of a household facing food insecurity increases as the income drops.

55 per cent of households in which the main source of income was social assistance are food insecure, the result of a huge discrepancy between social assistance levels and the rising costs of living.

Overweight and obesity combined affect 62.1 per cent of the population. Obesity rates have increased significantly since the early 1980s, and it is becoming more severe.

8.6 per cent of children between the ages of 6-17 are obese.

Obesity has been shown to be intrinsically linked to the following factors: lack of access to nutritious food, physical activity, socio-economic factors, ethnicity, immigration and environmental factors.

The health impacts are considerable. Obesity alone costs the Canadian economy at least $4.6 billion in 2008 in direct (health care) and indirect (lost productivity) costs.


Household food insecurity by province:

Nunavut: 36.4%

Nova Scotia: 17.1%

Yukon: 16.8 %

New Brunswick: 16.5%

Prince Edward Island: 15.4%

Northwest Territories: 15.2%

Quebec: 12.5%

Manitoba: 12.4%

Alberta: 12.3%

Ontario: 11.9%

Saskatchewan: 11.8%

British Columbia: 11.0%

Newfoundland and Labrador: 10.6%

Source: Household Food Insecurity in Canada