Food insecurity increased during the pandemic
As of May 2020, 15 per cent of Canadians reported living in a household where there was food insecurity in the past 30 days
By ATB Economics 25 June 2020 1 min read
Many of us have probably had a moment in the grocery store when our jaw dropped at the price of a food item—even Bill Gates must do a double-take at the price of a bag of pine nuts! Others may have found themselves wondering if they will need to take out a second mortgage to pay the bill after taking the family to the drive-thru.
Kidding aside, and despite these occasional shocks to the system, the idea that we won’t have enough to eat is likely not a top-of-mind concern for the majority of Canadians. Unfortunately, the opposite is true for those living in a food-insecure household.
According to the definition used by Statistics Canada, household food insecurity exists when there is a compromise in the quality or quantity of food consumed or there is reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns.
As of the week of May 4 to 10, 2020, 15 per cent of Canadians reported living in a household where there was food insecurity in the past 30 days, with the proportion rising to 19 per cent for households with children.*
About 3 in 10 Canadians who were absent from work because of a business closure, layoff, or personal circumstances due to COVID-19 lived in a food-insecure household in May.
The pandemic has increased food insecurity, but the problem exists independent of the economic disruption brought on by COVID-19. According to the 2017-2018 Canadian Community Health Survey, 10.5 per cent of Canadians were living in food-insecure households.
As the economy recovers, the heightened level of food insecurity experienced during the pandemic will hopefully come back down. But this will still leave millions of Canadians struggling to get enough food.
With the unemployment rate in Alberta expected to be one of the highest in the country next year, food insecurity in our province could easily remain elevated.
*Although broadly representative of the Canadian population, this estimate is based on a web panel that “underrepresents certain populations, some of which are more vulnerable to food insecurity. These include people with lower education, those who are divorced, widowed or separated, and those who rent their dwelling.” The web panel format also excludes homeless Canadians.