What is food insecurity, and why does it matter? Food security is defined as a state in which "all people, at all times, have physical & economic access to sufficient, safe, & nutritious food to meet their dietary needs & food preferences for an active & healthy life" (World Food Summit, 1996). In that case, food insecurity is the complete opposite. Thus, we can understand food insecurity as the physical & economically unpredictable access to adequate, safe, & nutritious food. As we allow this definition to sink in, we can move towards understanding why it matters.
In early March of 2020, PROOF concluded that 1 in 8 Canadian households face food insecurity. This means that about 12.7% of households, which represents 4.4 million Canadians face constant food insecurity. While about 8.7% of the above figure are severely-to-moderately food insecure, it's important to note that all 12.7% compromise on other necessities to obtain food (PROOF 2020). Nonetheless, since this report came out before the first official lockdown, the various effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated the above figures. Community Food Centers Canada (CFCC) wrote a recent report called "Beyond Hunger: The Hidden Impacts of Food Insecurity," explaining that the previous 1 in 8 households has increased to 1 in 7 all because of the pandemic (2020). In their survey of 22 communities across Canada, it was gathered that 81% experience physical and 79% experience mental health concerns. With the pandemic still looming, we expect a continued rise in the above numbers is making food insecurity a growing problem.
One of the more significant contributors to food insecurity is food price inflation. Canada's Food Price Reports of 2016 explain that food price inflation exceeds the overall inflation rate and will reach a staggering 4% above average (2015). The report further explained that in 2016, the average Canadian family was expected to spend $8,631 on food. This figure represented a $345 increase compared to the year before (Canada's Food Price Report 2015). This suggests that Canadians would pay much more for the same foods; five years later, these figures have doubled. The increase in food insecurity following the first year of COVID-19 we see above is parallel to the rise in food inflation we are expected to see in 2021. According to the above report writers, Canada's Food Report-Price of 2021 suggests that food prices are expected to increase by 3 to 5% (2020).
They offer that for a family of four (two adults and two kids), the annual cost of food can be found around $13,907, and this figure represents a $695 increase compared to the year before (Canada Food Price Report 2020). This suggests that Canada's existing food insecurity is negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic increasing food-insecure households and individuals.
The previous 1 in 8 food insecure households has increased to 1 in 7 because of the COVID-19 pandemic
Over the past five years food price inflation has gone up significantly resulting in Canadians having the pay more each year for the same food compared to the years before.
Compared to general inflation, food inflation is significantly higher by 1-2%.
In 2021, Canadians are expected to pay $695 more for the same food compared to 2020.
“Beyond Hunger: The Hidden Impacts of Food Insecurity.” Community Food Centres Canada, beyondhunger.ca/page/66634/action/1?ea.tracking.id=cfccca. Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.
“More Canadians Are Food Insecure than Ever before – and the Problem Is Only Getting Worse.” PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research, proof.utoronto.ca/more-canadians-are-food-insecure-than-ever-before-and-the-problem-is-only-getting-worse. March 11, 2020.