New data on household food insecurity in 2023

April 26, 2024

In 2023, 22.9% of people in the ten provinces lived in a food-insecure household. That amounts to 8.7 million people, including 2.1 million children, living in households that struggled to afford the food they need. With another year of rising food insecurity, the percentage of people affected is at a new record high.

Today, Statistics Canada released data from the 2022 Canadian Income Survey (CIS 2022). While the CIS 2022 provides information on income and poverty using 2022 tax files, hence its name, questions about food insecurity were asked in the following year, from January to June 2023. Since food insecurity status is determined by the report of food deprivation in the past 12 months, we think it is more appropriate to characterize the food insecurity statistics as representative of 2023.

The data on the percentage and number of people living in food-insecure householdsa summarized in this post comes from Statistics Canada’s article in “The Daily — Canadian Income Survey, 2022”, and their public data tables. Links to these tables are available in the graphs below.

Statistics Canada releases CIS data from the territories separately, typically in the months following the provincial data release.

Food insecurity in the ten provinces, 2023

Food insecurity remains a large and persistent problem in Canada. The estimates for 2023 are the highest in the almost twenty years of monitoring. The persistently high prevalence of household food insecurity across Canada highlights the need for more effective, evidence-based policy responses by federal and provincial governments.

Statistics Canada measures food insecurity using the Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM), which consists of 18 questions about experiences of food deprivation over the past 12 months. These experiences range in severity from worrying about running out of food to going whole days without eating, all due to financial constraints.

Based on a household’s experience, they can be considered food secure or in one of 3 categories of food insecurity:

Marginal food insecurity: Worry about running out of food and/or limited food selection due to a lack of money for food.

Moderate food insecurity: Compromise in quality and/or quantity of food due to a lack of money for food.

Severe food insecurity: Miss meals, reduce food intake, and at the most extreme go day(s) without food.

Living in a food-insecure household means living in pervasive material deprivation with compromises to basic needs beyond just food.

The increase in food insecurity was primarily among those in households experiencing more dire food deprivation due to financial constraints. The percentage of people living in severely food-insecure households increased from 4.0% in 2022 to 6.0% in 2023. The percentage of people living in moderately food-insecure households increased from 8.9% in 2022 to 10.9% in 2023. The percentage of people living in marginally food-insecure households remained relatively stable.

The worsening in the severity of food insecurity in Canada is very concerning. The negative health outcomes and increased health care needs associated with food insecurity are graded, with those in severely food-insecure household more likely to have chronic physical and mental health problems, require healthcare services like hospitalization, and die prematurely.

Differences across the provinces

Food insecurity varies across the provinces. In 2023, the percentage of individuals living in food-insecure households was highest in Nova Scotia at 28.9%, P.E.I at 28.6%, and Saskatchewan at 28.0%.

In 2023, the percentage of people living in severely food-insecure households varied from 8.7% in Newfoundland and Labrador to 2.8% in Quebec. Quebec continues to stand out as having the lowest percentage of people living in food-insecure households and severely food-insecure households.

Food insecurity over time

In 2023, the percentage of people living food-insecure households rose and established new record highs in every province. The increase is particularly pronounced in Saskatchewan, where the percentage rose 7.7 percentage points from 20.3% in 2022 to 28% in 2023. The increase was smallest in Quebec, with only a 1 percentage point change from 14.7% in 2022 to 15.7% in 2023.

Children living in food-insecure households, 2022

The chance of someone living in a food-insecure household differs greatly depending on their age how old they are. Children under 18 and working age adults have considerably higher proportions of people living in food-insecure households, compared to seniors 65 years and older. The percentage of children living in food-insecure households is over double the percentage for seniors.

In 2023, over 1 in 4 children (28.4%) under 18 in the ten provinces lived in a food-insecure household. That amounts to 2.1 million children, increasing from the almost 1.8 million in 2022. About three quarters (74%) of these children, 1.5 million children, were in moderately or severely food-insecure households.

The percentage of children living in food-insecure households was highest in P.E.I, where 2 in 5 children (41.0%) were affected by some level of food insecurity. Quebec was the only province to not have an increase in the percentage of children living in food-insecure households in 2023.

In 2023, food insecurity affected 27.2% of people in families with childrenb. Female lone-parent families are very likely to be food-insecure, with 46.0% of people in these families affected.

Food insecurity and race

Food insecurity is racialized. The highest percentage of individuals living in food-insecure households in 2023 was found among Black people at 40.4% and Indigenous Peoples at 36.8%.

The situation for Indigenous communities is likely even worse given the lack of representation of people living on First Nations reserves and some remote Northern communities in the national surveys used to monitor food insecurity in Canada, as well as the current lack of data on the territories in 2023.

Food insecurity has continued to fester and is at the worst it has ever been. The federal and provincial budgets for 2024 have offered little, if anything, in terms of policy action that could move the needle on household food insecurity. All the research points to the need to provide low-income households with more adequate and secure incomes.

These new statistics are a wake-up call for governments to do more to protect Canadians from food insecurity, whether by improving the existing programs that make up our social safety net (i.e. Canada Child Benefit, GST Credit, Canada Workers Benefit, EI, provincial social assistance and child benefits, etc.), or implementing new ones like a basic income.


a. The estimates reported in this blog and the Statistics Canada resources cited should not be compared to estimates from the PROOF annual reports. In those reports, we present estimates of food insecurity at the household level, in line with the conceptualization of food insecurity as a household measure. In this post and most Statistics Canada resources, food insecurity is reported at the person-level, i.e. the percentage of people in food-insecure households.

b. The statistics regarding families with children refers to economic family with main income earners under 65 years of age and their children by birth, adopted, step, or foster under 18 years of age. They exclude families with main income earners over 65 years or older and families where there are only children of relatives of the main income earner. ‘Economic family’ is defined by Statistics Canada as a group of two or more persons who live in the same dwelling and are related to each other by blood, marriage, common law, adoption, or a foster relationship, with the main income earner (highest income before tax) serving as the reference point. A female lone parent family may have other family members and their children in it. This is not a decision by PROOF and is a function of how the available data is organized in Statistics Canada’s public data tables.

There may be some minor differences in the provincial estimates of overall food insecurity in different graphs due to rounding.