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.
“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 locally||Participation 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 cooperatives||More resilient neighbourhoods|
|FOOD JUSTICE – Support food distributors and advocates||Social 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.
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
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.
Toronto Community Garden Network: Start a community garden
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.”
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
PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research: Household food insecurity in Canada