Food insecurity report demands action, say food movement leaders
By Laura Aiken
Montreal and Toronto – Food Secure Canada and Community Food Centres Canada have signalled alarms bells over a new report indicating persistently high rates of household food insecurity in Canada.
The PROOF research team released the report, titled Household Food Insecurity in Canada 2013. The paper documented that 2.4 million adults and nearly a million children in Canada– or approximately 12.5 per cent of households– experienced food insecurity in that year (the most recent year for which statistics have been compiled). The organizations say that this report is confirmation that political will is required to address this issue, as they are calling for all parties to do through their Eat Think Vote election campaign.
“This is a costly problem, in both human and financial terms, that can no longer be ignored by our politicians,” said Diana Bronson, executive director of Food Secure Canada, in a news release. “Our Eat Think Vote campaign has seen over 50 grassroots events across the country asking local candidates to put poverty and food issues front and central in their platforms. The numbers in this report show that food insecurity is an intractable problem that requires a coherent policy response to address poverty head-on.”
Food insecurity is defined by the Canadian government as “the inability to acquire or consume an adequate diet quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so.” The 2013 numbers in the report significantly underestimate the problem, since four jurisdictions (Yukon, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador) have stopped collecting the data necessary to feed into the national report, noted the press release.
“Food insecurity is not only an affront to human dignity and rights but is also hugely costly to the public purse. Recent research done for Ontario clearly documented that higher household food insecurity results in significant health-care costs, with increases up to 121 per cent for those living in severe food insecurity” said Nick Saul of Community Food Centres Canada, in the press release. “If we extrapolate the Ontario figures nationally, a conservative estimate of the cost of food insecurity to the health care system is over $3 billion per year. As part of Eat Think Vote, Community Food Centres Canada is calling for all parties to investigate a basic income floor plan in order to combat hunger and food insecurity.”
Among other findings of the 2013 Report on Household Food Insecurity:
· The primary factor influencing food insecurity is income
· 38.2% of single parent families headed by women were food insecure
· 68% of households on social assistance were food insecure
· Households with people of Aboriginal, Latin American or African descent experience significantly higher levels of food insecurity
· The majority of food insecure households in Canada have some employment income;
· Food insecurity is continuing to rise, with particularly alarming results in the Maritimes and Northern Canada.
Eat Think Vote is a campaign whose overarching goal is a comprehensive food policy that addresses the crisis of food insecurity– particularly but by no means exclusively in the North– as well as the economic, health and environmental issues related to food. Eat Think Vote events are planned from coast to coast and feature federal candidates and the pubic sharing a community meal and discussing the main issues connected to food insecurity in Canada.