Linda Geggie is the executive director with the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable and can be reached at lgeggie@cfair.ca.

Local Flavour: Food insecurity is related to income

Geggie is the executive director with the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable

At this time of year, it is good to see so many efforts making sure that people are cared for in our community. The food banks are in full swing with food drives and Christmas hampers. We see efforts like the Fernwood NRG to “Give the Gift of Good Food” by sponsoring good food boxes not only for the holidays, but year-round. While these efforts are both generous and important, I want to shine the light on the roots of food insecurity. I often hear that people struggle due to the rising cost of food. It is undeniable that food costs, especially fresh fruits and vegetables are rising. The recent fires and droughts in California where we get much of our food, is adding to this winter fresh foods cost dynamic.

However, the research tells us something different about food insecurity (or the inability to access enough nutritious food). Unless you are living in the north of Canada, it is rarely about not having access to food, or the price of food itself. Food insecurity is more related to income. In our region, low income coupled by the high cost of housing greatly influence food security. A recent report (PROOF Report, Food Insecurity Policy Research, University of Toronto) lets us know that the single most impactful thing supporting food security in seniors is reaching the age of 65 when they become eligible for senior’s pension programs. At this time, with a stable income, people are able to access healthier diets.

According to the Food Costing in BC 2017 report, prepared for the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), the average monthly cost of a healthy diet for a family of four in B.C. increased to $1,019. This report is based on “food costing data” that is collected every two years using Health Canada’s National Nutritious Food Basket (NNFB), a standard tool used by various levels of government to monitor the cost and affordability of healthy eating. The NNFB includes approximately 60 food items that represent a nutritious diet for individuals in various age and gender groups.

Based on the NNFB standard, in British Columbia, half a million people can’t afford a healthy diet. The cost for food for people on social assistance is 44 per cent of their income, almost a quarter for minimum wage earners, and about 14 per cent for people earning a median wage. The results of this are that one in ten experience food insecurity, having inadequate access to food due to financial constraints. On Vancouver Island we would need to spend even more for a healthy diet, at $1043. Here, one in six children live in homes that struggle to feed their families well. There are significant health costs associated with food insecurity. Adults for instance face more vulnerability to depression, heart disease and other chronic diseases like diabetes. This also costs society more as food insecure households incur double the health care costs.

The primary response to food insecurity in BC has been at the local level through initiatives like food banks, meal programs and community gardens. While these initiatives are critical in addressing emergency food needs, increasing food literacy, social cohesion and sustainable food systems, recent research has found that they cannot fundamentally deal with the root cause of the issue, which is poverty. We need to go further to truly reduce household food insecurity. Initiatives and policy that improve income will be more. Some of the strategies that you may have heard about are related to ensuring a “living wage” or guaranteed annual income. There has also been a lot of attention to the housing market here in the Capital Region. Utilizing policy tools and incentives to encourage the development of both private and public sector affordable housing will also have an impact on household food security.

As the holiday season approaches, it is important to give. There are many people in our region that are working hard to put a good meal on the table for their families and there is much we can do to support each other. Over the longer term if we truly want to make a difference, we need to dig more deeply into inequity. We can find solutions that encourage a living wage and affordable housing. Let that be our New Year Resolution; promoting healthier and wealthier communities inclusive of everyone.

Linda Geggie is the executive director with the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable and can be reached at lgeggie@cfair.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich Peninsula plugs into EV ownership

Sidney and Central Saanich record the second and third-highest EV ownership rate per 1,000 residents

Saanich landfill gets used oil and antifreeze dropoff centre upgrades

BC Used Oil Management Association oversees upgrades, two new facilities in province

Colwood man to ride 400 kilometres to fight kids cancer

Man riding for a beloved family member who died from leukemia at 13-years-old

Saanich woman completes 10 marathons, raises double her initial goal amount

Over $20,000 raised for Victoria Hospitals Foundation

UPDATED: Missing 25-year-old Saanich woman found Saturday

Yuhan Jin thought to be travelling by foot or bus, carrying two suitcases

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

Woman arrested near Nanaimo beach after alleged road rage incidents

37-year-old woman facing charges including assault, assaulting a police officer, impaired driving

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

Health officials say indoor dining presents a higher risk

Raptors kneel for both American and Canadian anthems ahead of tipoff

Majority of players have substituted their names on the backs of their jerseys with racial and social justice messages

Most Read