New food insecurity data for 2019 from Statistics Canada

As part of the federal Poverty Reduction Strategy, the government identified household food insecurity as a key indicator for its Official Poverty Dashboard. Statistics Canada’s new report, Canadian Income Survey: Food insecurity and unmet health care needs, 2018 and 2019, marks the release of new data on food insecurity — the first from Canadian Income Survey (CIS) — and an important step forward in food insecurity monitoring in Canada.

The inclusion of food insecurity monitoring on the CIS now ensures systematic, annual evaluations of food insecurity. Consistent monitoring was not achieved through the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) because jurisdictions could opt out of measuring food insecurity in some years.

Having consistent monitoring of food insecurity as part of the Poverty Reduction Strategy is important for the development of its policy interventions and the evaluation of its impact. We applaud Statistics Canada’s commitment and progress in the annual tracking and reporting of food insecurity.

With 15.6% of people in the provinces living in food-insecure households in 2019*, this report continues to highlight that food insecurity is a serious problem in need of urgent action.

Map of Canada titled "Percentage of people living in food-insecure households in the provinces, 2019" Canada: 15.6% Newfoundland and Labrador: 17.8% Prince Edward Island: 17.9% Nova Scotia: 18.8% New Brunswick: 15.3% Quebec: 10.6% Ontario: 17% Manitoba: 17.5% Saskatchewan: 18.2% Alberta: 18.4% British Columbia: 15.5% Data Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Income Survey (CIS), 2019. Based on Canadian Income Survey: Food insecurity and unmet health care needs, 2018 and 2019 (Caron & Plunkett-Latimer, 2022) Food-insecure households includes marginal, moderate, and severe food insecurity.

The report does not include the territories in the national estimates but does provide some territorial estimates and notes the CIS food insecurity rates for Canada remain virtually unchanged when territories are included, given the relatively small population. Food insecurity in the territories remains very high.

Key patterns from previous examinations of national food insecurity data continue, such as the higher prevalence of food insecurity among families with children, especially those led by single mothers, and the lower prevalence of food insecurity among seniors.

The prevalence of food insecurity among Indigenous peoples living off reserve remains disproportionately high. In 2019, 28.2% of Indigenous peoples living off reserve aged 16 years and over lived in food-insecure households.

The report also documents the high prevalence of food insecurity among persons over 16 years of age with a disability. In 2019, 23.6% of persons over 16 years of age with a disability lived in food-insecure households.

Although the change between 2018 and 2019 appears to be a decrease nationally and in some jurisdictions, only the reduction in Quebec was a meaningful, statistically significant difference — a trend also observed from CCHS data comparing 2017-2018 to 2015-2016.

The 2018 and 2019 prevalence estimates from CIS are notably higher than previous estimates using CCHS, suggesting the problem may be larger than previously thought. Statistics Canada has provided an examination of potential reasons for the difference between the two surveys in their report.

Read the full report, Canadian Income Survey: Food insecurity and unmet health care needs, 2018 and 2019, on Statistic Canada’s website.

Percentage of people living in food-insecure households*
2018 2019
Canada 16.5% 15.6%
Newfoundland and Labrador 19.2% 17.8%
Prince Edward Island 16.2% 17.9%
Nova Scotia 21.2% 18.8%
New Brunswick 17.7% 15.3%
Quebec 13.9% 10.6%
Ontario 16.5% 17.0%
Manitoba 19.1% 17.5%
Saskatchewan 17.2% 18.2%
Alberta 19.4% 18.4%
British Columbia 15.9% 15.5%

Source: Statistics Canada. Canadian Income Survey (CIS), 2019. Territories not included in national estimates. See Canadian Income Survey: Food insecurity and unmet health care needs, 2018 and 2019 for territorial estimates.

*We’ve included marginal food insecurity in these prevalence estimates to provide a more comprehensive picture of food insecurity. (For more information, see our guide on measurement)