With nearly 9.5% of the population falling below the poverty line, food insecurity in Canada appears to directly correlate with financial issues. Hunger in Canada has negatively impacted the physical, mental and emotional well-being of citizens. Such a scenario has meant negative implications for the country’s health care system as well. While Canada may not be a country with severe financial difficulties, a situation unlike many impoverished countries, some Canadians suffer from severe food insecurity. These five data points highlight the prevalence of hunger in Canadian society.
5 Facts About Hunger in Canada
- One out of every six children under the age of 18 suffers from food insecurity. This is most prevalent in Northern Canada. This area suffers from a lack of employment opportunities and elevated produce prices. In addition, those who live in Northern Canada have switched from hunting to relying on store-bought goods, which tends to cost more than in the rest of Canada. In fact, Northern Ontario communities, such as Moose Factory and Attawapiskat, on average spend twice the amount of money on food as Southern Ontario communities.
- Nearly half of food-insecure households consist of those living alone. Single-person households are difficult to maintain as many citizens struggle to sustain their employment. In 2019, the unemployment rate increased to 5.67% and continues to increase. This trend has persisted throughout 2020, with unemployment rates reaching 13.7% due largely to the effects of COVID-19.
- Low household income individuals frequently suffer from food insecurity. In food-insecure households, over 60% of salaries and wages are necessary for necessities. The minimum wage in Canada is $14.25 CAD per hour, which is not much more than an average meal price of roughly $13.
- Households that comprise of senior citizens are less likely to suffer from food insecurity. Canada’s Pension Plan (CPP) is designed to replace a person’s income when they retire. These pensions have severely affected how seniors face Canadian poverty. Because of such consistent and large sums of money, the rates of food insecurity are lower in these households.
- Food intake severely contributes to wellbeing. Mood and anxiety disorders are higher in food-insecure households. Studies show that the prevalence of depressive thoughts is nearly 23% greater in food-insecure households. Food insecurity forces individuals to make stressful life-altering decisions, which in turn can cause increases in depression and anxiety. Scientific studies further show that lack of food can render the brain unable to access the proper amount of nutrients, ultimately leading to lower amounts of dopamine and serotonin. These are chemicals that are associated with happiness.
While hunger in Canada is a severe issue, many political campaigns tackle food insecurity. The Eat Think Vote campaign encourages the government to establish a basic income to ensure that all Canadians are able to afford healthy meals. This campaign recommends multiple strategies, such as increasing the National Child Benefit, developing a national housing strategy, etc. In doing so, specific provinces (such as Quebec) have greatly decreased their prevalence of food insecurity. These actions have enabled the government to combat financial obstacles that greatly impact hunger in Canada.
– Aditi Prasad