Food insecurity is a serious problem in Ontario, and across Canada.
No Money for Food is … Cent$less is a campaign that aims to increase awareness and advocacy for income solutions that will help everyone to buy enough food to feed themselves and their families.
What is food insecurity?
Food insecurity, also called household food insecurity, is not having enough money to buy food. Individuals and families living on low incomes struggle to pay the rent, other basic living costs (such as utilities, phone, childcare, clothing, medication, transportation) AND food.
Who experiences food insecurity in Ontario?
13% of households in Ontario are food insecure. This translates to 1,700,000 people living in Ontario.
1 in 6 children in Ontario lives in a household that is food insecure.
59% of Ontario households receiving social assistance are food insecure.
63% of food insecure households in Ontario have employment income.
Source: Tarasuk, V, Mitchell, A. (2020). Household food insecurity in Canada, 2017-18 [Report online].Toronto, ON: Research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity (PROOF); 2020 [cited 2020 Nov 10]. Available from https://proof.utoronto.ca/.
Why does it matter?
Food insecurity takes a serious toll on people’s physical, mental and social health. Adults in food insecure households are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as mental health conditions such as mood disorders, anxiety, and depression. They also may not be able to afford prescription medication. Children living in food-insecure households are more likely to have mental health conditions such as hyperactivity and inattention. Experiences of food insecurity during childhood have a serious and lasting impact on mental health leading to greater risk of depression, social anxiety, and suicidal thoughts as teenagers and young adults.
Food insecurity costs our healthcare system considerably. Adults living in food insecure households have much higher healthcare costs than those living in food secure households.
Food charity is an ineffective solution for food insecurity
Food charities, such as food banks and soup kitchens, provide temporary food relief for people who cannot afford to buy their own. They can never meet the relentless demand that has only increased with the COVID-19 work stoppages and job losses. Food banks do not address the root cause of food insecurity − not enough money to buy food. Only about 20% of households experiencing food insecurity access food banks. Food banks do not decrease food insecurity for those who use them.
According to the United Nations Human Right Council, all humans have the right to adequate food. In a country as rich as Canada, everyone should be able to buy enough food. Despite extensive charitable efforts, millions of Canadians remain food insecure. It takes more than food to solve food insecurity. Income solutions are needed to address this urgent public health problem.
The solution: Policies that increase incomes
The solution is adequate incomes through jobs with livable wages and benefits, social assistance rates that reflect the true costs of living, and a basic income guarantee for all.
An adequate income:
- Addresses the root cause of food insecurity − not enough money
- Gives individuals and families the means to choose how, when and what food to buy
- Preserves dignity
- Supports social inclusion
The impact of an adequate income on food insecurity
There are income security programs that have effectively decreased food insecurity rates among certain groups.
Canadian seniors 65 years and older experience lower rates of food insecurity than other population groups due to the Guaranteed Income Supplement and Old Age Security they receive through Canada’s public pension system. Extending this guaranteed income to working-age Canadians through a basic income guarantee could be an effective strategy to reduce food insecurity.
The Ontario Child Benefit program (2009 - 2012) provided financial support to help parents with the costs of raising their children. This program reduced food insecurity in several households across the province and was especially useful for low income and single-parent households.
Households who were part of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot Project reported reduced food insecurity while receiving a basic income. They also reported less food bank use, and improved overall diet.
Food insecurity can be reduced when public policies increase the incomes of vulnerable households.
Basic income for all Canadians costs less than poverty
Based on 2007 data, poverty was estimated to cost Canada up to 30.5 billion dollars in public costs, including crime and healthcare, and up to 55.6 billion dollars in private costs, including lost productivity. In total, poverty in Canada was estimated to cost about 86 billion dollars.
In 2018, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that a basic income for all Canadians, based on the Ontario Basic Income model, would cost approximately 76 billion dollars. However, when immediate cost savings are removed, such as social assistance costs and GST rebates, the net cost would be 44 billion dollars. This net cost is much less than the cost of poverty in Canada.
What can you do?
Click here to find out what you can do.