- 2.85 million adults.
- 1.15 million kids.
- 4 million individuals in total.
According to a newly released report from the University of Toronto, that’s the number of Canadians who lived in food insecure households in 2012. This represents nearly 13% of all Canadian households.
Food insecurity may be marginal, moderate or severe. When it is marginal, people worry about running out of food because there is not enough money. This may lead individuals to limit the types of food they buy and eat, so they can conserve resources.
When food insecurity is moderate, people in the household reduce the quality and/or quantity of food they eat because of a lack of money. For example, a mother may have a peanut butter sandwich for supper so her kids can have better food. Or she may leave the meat for her children or her partner, and eat only starchy, filling foods herself.
When food insecurity is severe, individuals skip meals, reduce food intake and sometimes go for a day or more without eating because there is not enough money.
The most severe form of food insecurity involves children—when kids are not eating balanced meals, not eating enough or going hungry because their parents don’t have enough money. Mothers will do almost anything to protect their children from being hungry. This includes going hungry themselves, sending kids to relatives for food, staying in abusive relationships, stealing food, or making some extra money in whatever way they can. In 2012, almost 309,000 kids lived in households where parents could only afford to feed them a few kinds of low-cost foods.
Food insecurity is directly related to poverty. The highest risk of food insecurity is found in the same groups that are at highest risk of poverty. These include single mothers, those reliant on social assistance, Aboriginal people, black people, and recent immigrants.
Food insecurity is associated with numerous health problems and it makes it more difficult to manage chronic diseases that require special diets, such as diabetes, hypertension or heart disease. For children, living in a food insecure household impacts school performance and has lasting effects into adulthood.
The University of Toronto report paints a disturbing picture of food insecurity in Canada and demonstrates that it is a serious public health concern, requiring urgent and coordinated public policy to address it. A wealthy country like Canada can certainly afford to ensure that all its citizens can eat a basic, healthy diet. There is no excuse for inaction.