May 24, 2024
Nearly 23% of the Canadian population reported food insecurity in 2022 | CBC News

Nearly 23% of the Canadian population reported food insecurity in 2022 | CBC News

Nearly nine million Canadians lived in food insecure households in 2022, with 22.9 per cent of the population reporting some form of food insecurity, according to a Statistics Canada report released Friday.

The data agency wrote in its annual Canadian Income Survey that 8.7 million people lived in households that reported some kind of food insecurity.

That was an increase of 1.8 million people from the previous year, when the rate was 18.4 per cent. It marked the second consecutive year of increases since the pandemic began.

Statistics Canada measures food insecurity across three categories:

  • Marginal: Those who worry about running out of food or having a limited selection of food because they can’t afford it.
  • Moderate: Those who had to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of their food because they can’t afford otherwise.
  • Severe: Those who reported skipping meals, reducing how much they ate or going days without food because they can’t afford otherwise.

The number of people living in moderately and severely food insecure households increased in 2022, with the moderate rate rising to 10.9 per cent and the severe rate rising to six per cent.

“There’s no doubt that this challenge we’re facing right now isn’t hitting all Canadians equally,” said Jim Stanford, an economist and the director of the Centre for Future Work in Vancouver.

Single-parent families and “unattached” people under 65 were at an especially high rate of food insecurity, according to the report.

“It’s people who can least afford it who have the least protection against higher prices and higher housing costs and so on, and these numbers absolutely confirm it.”

“We’ve seen enormous increases in food prices, we’ve seen enormous increases in profits in the food industry, the food retail sector. So that is hitting hard, and that to me, is a real worry,” said Stanford.

“If we’re a rich country like Canada, and we can’t assure that everyone has enough food on the table, then clearly we need to do things better.”

‘Sickening’ numbers, says food insecurity researcher

Valerie Tarasuk, who is the lead investigator of the University of Toronto’s household food insecurity research program PROOF, told CBC News it was “sickening” to see how much the numbers had gone up, though she was expecting that.

“I’m disappointed. We’ve known that this has been a period of unprecedented food price inflation, among other things,” said Tarasuk, adding that severe food insecurity is linked to negative health outcomes.

“So we knew that people on the bottom end of the economic spectrum were having a hard time. From that perspective, it’s not surprising that the numbers have risen, but still, it’s heartbreaking to think of that many Canadians living in such difficult circumstances.”

A basket of onions is shown in a food bank.
Groceries, including food and household items, are pictured at the Guru Nanak Food Bank in Delta, B.C., on April 19. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The survey, which is an annual report on the income of Canadian individuals and households, showed that the number of Canadians living below the poverty line had increased to 9.9 per cent in 2022 from 7.4 per cent in 2021.

The 2022 numbers show that the poverty rate was inching back up to 2019 levels, when the annual rate was 10.3 per cent.

The median after-tax income of Canadian families and individuals decreased in 2022 to $70,500, though that was partially because government financial programs related to the pandemic were rolled back or ended entirely during the same year.

‘2022 was a hard year’

Eligibility requirements for employment insurance, which had been expanded during the pandemic as many people lost their jobs or struggled to find work, returned to standard. That led to a decrease in EI recipients, from four million people in 2021 to 2.9 million people in 2022.

It was also the year that Canada began breaking its own records on inflation — reaching 30-plus-year highs in the early months of 2022 — leading the Bank of Canada to launch its interest rate hike campaign.

A person transfers eggs from a large carton into smaller cartons.
Volunteers and staff with the Feed Scarborough Food Bank separate eggs into different cartons at the charity’s Toronto warehouse on Aug. 3, 2023. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“[The data] certainly confirms 2022 was a hard year for any household trying to balance the books and pay their bills,” said Stanford.

But he noted that, before the pandemic, the country was on the right track, having decreased its poverty rate and having made gradual gains in income.”The current challenges after the pandemic have to be taken in that longer historical context. We have made some progress in Canada, and now I think it’s important after the pandemic to get back on that positive track if we can,” said Stanford.

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