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Resources Backgrounder

Poverty and food insecurity in Canada


About this resource

This backgrounder provides an overview of some of the latest research on poverty and food insecurity in Canada. 

Current context

Nearly five million people in Canada (14% the population) are living below the poverty line. Food insecurity, largely a result of poverty, affects more than four million Canadians, representing close to 13% of households. Children are disproportionately affected by food insecurity, with one in six children in Canada living in food insecure homes.

Why it matters 

Poverty and food insecurity are linked to numerous physical and mental health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and depression, as well as lower sense of community belonging and higher health care costs. On a societal level, poverty is estimated to cost Canadians $72 to $85 billion per year.

Research shows that many of the chronic health conditions associated with poverty and food insecurity can be prevented or improved through changes in diet and lifestyle. Studies also show that people who feel more connected to their communities have lower rates of anxiety and depression, and higher rates of self-esteem. 

What we do about it

Community Food Centres and community food programs positively impact the health and well-being of people struggling with food insecurity and poverty. CFC programs, such as community meals, cooking groups, and affordable produce markets, improve access to healthy foods and promote healthy eating behaviours, helping to prevent and manage chronic conditions associated with poverty and food insecurity. CFCs also train community advocates with lived experience of poverty to help their peers access necessary material and social supports, and engage community members in civic engagement activities that empower them to take action on poverty and social justice issues.

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