Household Food Insecurity in Ontario
4 April 2023
Food insecurity is something that impacts the lives of so many across Ontario and is considered an important social determinant of health as it may result in detrimental outcomes for early childhood growth and development, and long-term physical and mental health outcomes.
What is food insecurity?
Food insecurity, also known as household food insecurity, is the inability to obtain a sufficient diet due to income-related food access. Food insecurity can range from worrying about running out of food before getting money to buy more, to not eating for a whole day or more.
Who experiences food insecurity in Ontario?
Food insecurity touches the lives of many Ontarians, including 1 in 5 children. Latest estimates from PROOF show that food insecurity impacts 16% of households in Ontario, which means that approximately 2,340,000 people across the province can’t afford nutritious food on a regular basis.
Household food insecurity is a problem rooted in income. Over 60% of Canadian households with social assistance as a main source of income are food insecure. However, over 50% of food insecure households in Ontario are reliant on wages, salaries, and self-employment as their main sources of income (vs. social assistance, employment insurance, pensions, and other sources).
As summarized by the Ontario Dieticians in Public Health, reducing food insecurity requires solutions targeted to its root problem of insufficient income. Food charity, including food banks, do not address the root of food insecurity, nor are they able to meet the growing demand for their services. Policies that increase household income are necessary to address food insecurity, including a higher minimum wage, increased social assistance rates, and lower income tax rates for the lowest income households.
Public Health Ontario (PHO) health equity resources
PHO provides resources on many topics of health equity. Most recently, we released a snapshot that provides Ontario and public health unit estimates of household food insecurity along with other sub-provincial comparisons. This tool can help public health partners across the province access local-level estimates of household food insecurity.
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