What's for dinner? Not enough for many Canadians: StatsCan report

Dene Moore
National Affairs Contributor
ca-newsdaily-brew
What's for dinner? Not enough for many Canadians: StatsCan report

About 1.1 million Canadian households did not have enough food to eat in 2012, says a new report from Statistics Canada.

Five per cent of Canadian children and eight per cent of adults experienced “food insecurity,” meaning they could not afford enough nutritious food, says the report released Wednesday.

“We weren’t surprised by the results that we got. They have been consistent,” analyst Shirin Roshanafshar tells Yahoo Canada News.

In Nunavut, almost 37 per cent of households reported going without. That’s more than four times the national average of 8.3 per cent.

“Nunavut had the highest rate of food insecurity amongst all Canadian provinces and territories,” Roshanafshar says.

The report by Roshanafshar and analyst Emma Hawkins looked at data from 65,000 Canadian Community Health surveys filled out annually from 2007-2012, focusing on 2012.

While Nunavut reported the highest rate of food insecurity, all the territories were hit harder than their provincial counterparts to the south.

Almost 14 per cent of households in the Northwest Territories reported that they’d been unable to afford the quality or quantity of food they needed at some point in the previous 12 months. A little more than 12 per cent of Yukon households reported the same.

In southern Canada, Maritime provinces had the highest rates of hunger: Nova Scotia 11.0 per cent, Prince Edward Island 10.6 per cent, New Brunswick 10.2 per cent.

The report notes that food insecurity is highest among single-parent families with children under 18, with almost 23 per cent reporting that they could not afford enough nutritional food.

“Among various household types in 2011–2012, lone-parent families reported the highest rate of food insecurity, while couples with no children reported the lowest,” it says.

The report looked at the household sources of income for the first time.

“Households where the main source of income was from government benefits, they were more than three times more likely to experience food insecurity,” Roshanafshar says.

Those include households that rely on government benefits such as employment insurance, old age security or social assistance as their main source of income.

A previous report supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research found that four million people in Canada experienced some level of food insecurity in 2012. That included 1.15 million children, or one in six children in the country.

“Food insecurity indicates deprivation in terms of a basic human need: access to nutritious food in sufficient quantities to maintain good health,” said that report, Household Food Insecurity in Canada.

Although there has been rigorous measurement and monitoring of household food insecurity in Canada since 2005, the problem has not abated. In fact, it has grown or persisted in every province and territory.”

The Statistics Canada report points out that previous research has linked food insecurity to poor health, long-term physical and mental disabilities, and depression.