OUR APPROACH: FOOD SECURITY
Food Security is a basic human right and a prerequisite for health and well-being throughout life.
The need for food security is complex and includes the environmental and ecological sustainability of food systems, the social and health implications of escalating food costs, and growing chronic disease, poverty and inadequate food access among low-income groups and other vulnerable populations, particularly recent immigrants, Indigenous and Black peoples, women, lone seniors, lone parents and their children. While food insecurity is still not very visible in communities, the recent global economic instability, an increased consumer interest in farmers markets and local seasonal foods, and growing evidence of obesity and diet-related health issues have spawned public and government interest in food with an increasing emphasis on food policy.
People in communities everywhere need to become more connected with food and decisions concerning their access to healthy, sustainably produced food. Our food systems need to change. Everyone has the right to live in a sustainable, vibrant, and nourished community. Food is a vital source of well-being for everyone.
Nova Scotia consistently has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country, making it a serious public health concern. Many people in our communities are not able to get the quality and variety of healthy foods that they need or worry about not having enough to eat.
Food security means different things to different people. For some, it means being able to get food that is healthy and nutritious and being able to enjoy it with friends, family and community. For others, it means not having to worry about having enough food or enough money to buy food. Food security also includes being able to make a living by growing and producing food in ways that protect and support both the land and the food producers, and that ensure that there will be healthy food for our children’s children.
This is a global issue, as many of us do not know where our food comes from, what is in our food, how safe it is to eat, and whether the ways we are producing food will ensure healthy food for future generations. In other words, food security means that an individual or a community has access to nutritious, safe, personally acceptable and culturally appropriate foods that are produced, procured and distributed in ways that are environmentally sound, socially just and sustainable.
Race and Food Insecurity
In Canada, those who identify as Indigenous or Black have the highest prevalence of food insecurity. The 2017-18 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) reported 28.2% of Indigenous and 28.9% of Black Canadian households were food insecure, compared to only 11.1% of White Canadian households1. These disparities in the prevalence of household food insecurity (HFI) indicate that certain racial groups are more vulnerable to food insecurity than others.
While these racial groups are more likely to experience sociodemographic factors associated with HFI (e.g. extreme poverty, renting, single-motherhood, lower education level, reliance on social assistance), even after these factors have been taken into account, Indigenous and Black Canadians still have a higher risk of HFI and being severely food-insecure2,3. Therefore, being racialized is an underlying factor which affects one’s vulnerability to HFI2,3. Racism is one of the many inequalities which affect food insecurity and is an issue that must be addressed to achieve food security for all.
COVID-19 Impact on Food Insecurity
The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to increase food insecurity in Canada and globally, as a result of the financial impacts the pandemic has caused. For instance, there has been significant job loss, many people have experienced a reduction in the number of work hours, and the economic downturn. In May 2020, during the pandemic, Statistics Canada conducted a survey on food insecurity in Canadian households in the past 30 days. It is important to note, based on the limitations of this survey, the results are likely lower than the actual food insecurity rate in Canada. The study found 14.6% of Canadian households experienced food insecurity in the past 30-days. It was also found that households that have children (19.2%) were more likely to be food insecure compared to households without children (12.2%)4.
Previously, the most recent HFI rates in Canada were from the 2017-18 CCHS which reported 10.5% of Canadian households experienced food insecurity4. The increased rate of HFI in Canada from the 2017-2018 to the March 2020 survey is likely associated with the financial hardships many have experience as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The current global events have made food security a more pressing issue.
1.Tarasuk V, Mitchell A. (2020). Household food insecurity in Canada, 2017-18. Toronto: Research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity (PROOF).
2.Dhunna S, Tarasuk V. (2019). Fact sheet: Race and food insecurity. Toronto: Research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity (PROOF) and FoodShare.
3.Roberts M. (2020). Black food insecurity in Canada. Broadbent Institute, February 3.
4.Statistics Canada. (2020). Food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, May 2020. Government of Canada. 2020.