Health Status of Canadians 2016: Report of the Chief Public Health Officer - What is influencing our health? - Food insecurity

What is influencing our health?

Food insecurity

In 2011-2012, more than 1 million or just under 1 in 10 Canadian households were living with moderate to severe food insecurity (see Figure 1)Footnote 1.

Figure 1: Just under 1 in 10 Canadian households were living with moderate to severe food insecurity.Footnote 1

Food plays a key role in health and well-being and is a basic human need.Footnote 2,Footnote 3 Food insecurity means not having access to enough safe, affordable and nutritious food to meet dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.Footnote 4,Footnote 5 Parents in food-insecure households may forgo food to ensure their children are fed.Footnote 6

Did you know?

Food safety is also an important issue. An estimated 4 million episodes of food-related illnesses occur every year, with 11,600 hospitalizations and 238 deaths associated with these illnesses.Footnote 14

Over time

From 2007-2008 to 2011-2012, the proportion of Canadian households living with food insecurity remained unchanged at 8%.Footnote 1

By income

In 2011-2012, 31% of the lowest income households and less than 1% of the highest income households had moderate to severe household food insecurity.Footnote 7,Footnote 8 21% of households using government benefits as their main source of income and 6% of households with other main sources of income were food insecure.Footnote 9

Indigenous populations

Data on food insecurity in Indigenous populations are not directly comparable to the data described above. In 2008/2010, 54% First Nations on-reserve households reported being either moderately or severely food insecure.Footnote 10

Percent of First Nations on-reserve households with moderate or severe food insecurity, 2008/2010Footnote 10
Moderately food insecure 40%
Severely food insecure 14%

Food insecurity is significantly higher in Indigenous households. In 2007-2010, 27% of Inuit households reported having low to very low food security.Footnote 11 Other surveys suggest that rates of food insecurity in Inuit households may be even higher, reaching over 62%.Footnote 12,Footnote 13

Percent of households with low to very low food security, 2007-2010Footnote 11

Data presented in this table are adjusted by age. Indigenous populations tend to be younger than non-Indigenous populations which can affect the ability to compare data across groups.

First Nations off reserve 22%
Métis 15%
Inuit 27%
Non-Indigenous 7%

International comparison: Food insecurity is not collected in a systematic fashion for industrialized countries. The United Nations and other international organizations regularly monitor food insecurity in developing regions and countries.Footnote 15

Notes to the reader

  • Food insecurity is defined as whether or not households are able to afford the food they need. According to Statistics Canada, levels of food security are defined as: food secure-no difficulty with food access; moderately food insecure-some compromise in quality and/or quantity of food consumed; severely food insecure-food intake is reduced and eating patterns disrupted.
  • Indigenous populations consist of First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

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