Food Security

In 2020, one in six Canadian children under the age of 18 went hungry. That number has been on the rise since 2007. Covid-19 has caused a greater increase. Climate impacts could make that number even higher.

Families working low-wage jobs simply can’t earn enough to put good food on the table — 60% of them are food-insecure. And 70% of families who rely on social assistance are food-insecure.

Household food insecurity

It’s hard to believe there are children in Canada who go hungry. But sadly it’s true. According to Statistics Canada, food insecurity affects 1.15 million — or one in six — Canadian children under age 18. That number has been on the rise since 2007 (1). Covid-19 has made it much worse

Household food insecurity is strongly linked to poverty in Canada. 70% of households who rely on social assistance in Canada are food insecure. But it also greatly affects a significant portion of the Canadian workforce. 60% of food-insecure households rely on wages and salaries as their main source of income. Families working low-wage jobs simply can’t earn enough to put good food on the table.

Food banks

“Household food insecurity – the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints – is a serious public health problem in Canada. It negatively impacts physical, mental, and social health, and costs our healthcare system considerably.” PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research, University of Toronto

Food prices and climate change

  • Food prices for the average Canadian family will increase by about $487 in 2021. Climate change is a major driver of rising food prices, especially for produce.
  • Storms and other weather events slow down food transportation and create shortages. 
  • A hotter climate contributes to a detectable losses of soil and vegetation and wildfire damage. That affects agricultural production and drives up food prices. 
  • Canada imports lots of its food in the winter. Imported goods fluctuate in price due to trade issues or weather events that affect food production and/or delivery.

Levels of food insecurity

Marginal: worry about running out of food or limited food selection due to a lack of money

Moderate: compromise in quality or quantity of food due to a lack of money

Severe: missing meals, reduced food intake, going without food for days at the most extreme end

Food security adaptations

Grow food locallyParticipation in local agriculture builds social networks and Improves mental health
Use cooperative buying power for food purchases such as Buying Clubs (provincial)Greater access to healthy food = improved physical health
Make a neighbourhood connection to the city food supply – Local food distribution cooperativesMore resilient neighbourhoods
FOOD JUSTICE – Support food distributors and advocatesSocial networks, strong community voice, greater community access to healthy food

Food buying clubs

A food buying club is a group of people who volunteer their time to purchase high quality, healthful foods at affordable wholesale prices. Members trade their time for lower prices.

Food cooperatives are essentially grocery stores that are owned by the people who shop there. But you don’t have to be a member to shop in a food co-op.

Community gardens

During Covid, many Canadian cities declared that community gardens were essential and should remain open (while staying Covid compliant). 

  • Because they are an important source of healthy food for families, some of whom might be food insecure.
  • Because the gardens also help support food banks and charities.
  • Because they help with anxiety and stress, as well as physical and social needs.

Shout out to Brampton, Ontario

“On April 15, 2020, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown announced the first city-wide program in Canada to distribute seeds and plants to residents so that they can grow their own gardens and share the surplus with local community organizations — an example of government supporting its people through gardening, so they can support each other.”

These are important days for community gardens, Mark and Ben Cullen, Green Spaces, The Toronto Star, April 16, 2020

Photo of a community garden. Credit: The Toronto Star
Photo of a community garden. Credit: The Toronto Star

What CREW does

In the early days of the pandemic, CREW volunteers helped to distribute food supplies to their neighbours.

CREW sits on the St. James Town Food Table, a City of Toronto-led initiative that aims to bring food security to the neighbourhood’s residents.


Canada has a great many provincial and metropolitan urban agriculture, community garden and food cooperative organizations and initiatives. Look for one where you live.

Community gardens

Alberta Health Services: Community Gardens Handbook

Toronto Community Garden Network: Start a community garden

Urban agriculture

From Toronto Urban Growers (TUG) – Lots of great information and materials

“In 2017, Toronto Urban Growers organized the first official Urban Agriculture Day, proclaimed by the City of Toronto. One day wasn’t enough to celebrate the range of UA, so UA Week has become an annual event.”

Food banks

From Food Banks Canada: General information on food banks

From The Daily Bread Food Bank (based in Toronto, this is one of Canada’s largest food banks) – Who’s Hungry 2020 report (PDF)

Food buying clubs and food cooperatives

Community Food Smart, New Brunswick: Food Buying Club

Food insecurity

PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research: Household food insecurity in Canada