Media Releases

University of Toronto report says 3.9 million Canadians struggle to afford food

July 25, 2013

TORONTO, ON – A new report by researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to shows that almost four mil­lion Cana­di­ans are strug­gling to put the food they need on the table because of food inse­cu­ri­ty.

The report, which exam­ined the state of food inse­cu­ri­ty in Cana­da, states that 3.9 mil­lion Cana­di­ans strug­gled to afford enough food in 2011, an increase of close to half a mil­lion com­pared with 2008. Of those that went hun­gry in 2011, 1.1 mil­lion were chil­dren.

Food inse­cu­ri­ty is the inad­e­quate or inse­cure access to nutri­tious, healthy food because of finan­cial con­straints. For those impact­ed, the con­se­quences can include phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al hard­ships, as well as the asso­ci­at­ed com­pro­mis­es to their health and well-being.

The report was pre­pared by PROOF, a Cana­di­an Insti­tutes of Health Research (CIHR)-funded research pro­gram ini­ti­at­ed to iden­ti­fy effec­tive pol­i­cy inter­ven­tions to address house­hold food inse­cu­ri­ty. The project was led by Dr. Valerie Tara­suk, a nutri­tion­al sci­ences pro­fes­sor at U of T’s Temer­ty Temer­ty Fac­ul­ty of Med­i­cine, who says the find­ings should be a wake­up call for gov­ern­ment..

“The impact of this sit­u­a­tion on chil­dren, fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties, the health care sys­tem and our econ­o­my can­not be over­stat­ed,” says Tara­suk, Prin­ci­pal Inves­ti­ga­tor for PROOF, an inter­na­tion­al team of researchers com­mit­ted to the reduc­tion of house­hold food inse­cu­ri­ty. “The prob­lem is not under con­trol and more effec­tive respons­es are urgent­ly need­ed. The cost of inac­tion is sim­ply too high.”

Some key points from the report include:

  • Near­ly one in eight Cana­di­an house­holds expe­ri­enced food inse­cu­ri­ty in 2011. With the excep­tion of New­found­land and Labrador, food inse­cu­ri­ty has per­sist­ed or grown in every province and ter­ri­to­ry since 2005.
  • One in six chil­dren in Cana­da lived in a house­hold affect­ed by food inse­cu­ri­ty in 2011.
  • Nunavut, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick had the high­est preva­lence of chil­dren liv­ing in food inse­cure house­holds at 57%, 27% and 25% respec­tive­ly.
  • Until now, the main win­dow into the prob­lem of food inse­cu­ri­ty has been food bank uti­liza­tion sta­tis­tics. How­ev­er, the report’s find­ings show that extent and dis­tri­b­u­tion of food inse­cu­ri­ty is far greater than food bank use indi­cates.

Future PROOF work will explore data on the link­ages between the inci­dence of food inse­cu­ri­ty and tra­jec­to­ry of chron­ic dis­ease, as well as the long-term impact on child devel­op­ment.

“Our find­ings uncov­er the harsh real­i­ty of inad­e­quate access to food. PROOF will con­tin­ue to gath­er detailed infor­ma­tion on the nature, extent, and human and eco­nom­ic cost of food inse­cu­ri­ty. By arm­ing our­selves with the right data, we will be able to devel­op achiev­able solu­tions to ensure the health and well-being of all Cana­di­ans,” says Tara­suk.

The report, released today, is avail­able on PROOF’s web­site.


For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact:

Suniya Kukaswa­dia
Office of Strat­e­gy, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Exter­nal Rela­tions
Temer­ty Temer­ty Fac­ul­ty of Med­i­cine, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to