Household Food Insecurity in Canada, 2012

February 6, 2014

Due to a 2015 redesign of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) that this report is based on, Statistics Canada cautions users against comparing estimates from CCHS from 2015 onwards to those prior to 2015.

UPDATED MAY 12, 2017: We have recently learned that Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Yukon opted out of food insecurity measurement in 2015 and 2016. The reports have been updated to reflect this.

How to cite: Tarasuk, V, Mitchell, A, Dachner, N. (2014). Household food insecurity in Canada, 2012.Toronto: Research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity (PROOF).Retrieved from


In PROOF’s second report on household food insecurity, we see that despite Canada’s economic recovery, the number of Canadians struggling to put food on the table because of food insecurity is not abating. In fact, the problem appears to have persisted or grown in every province and territory.

Four million Canadians, including 1.15 million children, lived in households that struggled to afford the food they needed in 2012.

The report demonstrates for the first time ever the extent to which our cities are struggling with the problem. Among the 33 major census metropolitan areas examined, food insecurity in 2011-12 was highest in Halifax, affecting about 1 in 5 households, and lowest in Sherbrooke, Quebec City, Hamilton and Greater Sudbury, where 1 in 11 households were food insecure.

Also a first, the report presents the rate of food insecurity among black people in the country. The extreme vulnerability of this ethnic/racial group that is shared only by Aboriginal peoples. In 2012, 28% of households with a black or Aboriginal respondent were food insecure. This is more than double the national average (12.6%).

According to the report, the majority of food insecure households in Canada are working, calling into question the adequacy of existing government programs (such as the working income tax benefit) to compensate for the limited income associated with low waged, part-time, and insecure employment that many Canadian households rely on to feed their families. At the same time, 70% of households reliant on social assistance were food insecure in 2012, documenting the failure of these programs to enable sufficient access to food.

Comments on the report:

Bernie Pauly, RN, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of Victoria Scientist, Centre for Addictions Research of BC

“This report is ground breaking in highlighting the serious concerns about the high rates of food insecurity in Canada. The information in the report is extremely valuable to communities for understanding the scope of the problem in their region. This kind of information is critically important for drawing attention to and generating action on the high rates of food insecurity that are and should be unacceptable to everyone in Canada”

Mary Boyd, Prince Edward Island social activist and member of the Order of Canada

“The 2011 PROOF Report shocked many residents of Prince Edward Island to the reality of the extent of food insecurity in Canada and especially in this province. Our coalitions and groups have been using it to educate Islanders on this very serious subject and strengthen our case for a Poverty Eradication Strategy.

The main author Dr. Valerie Tarasuk addressed a public meeting of approximately 100 people in Charlottetown in September. It was attended by groups such as civil servants, politicians and the general public. The media gave excellent coverage and the facts in the report have reached the ears of church leaders, of policy-makers as is evident by remarks made by the Premier, and as evidenced by questions in the Provincial Assembly to the Minister responsible and her public acknowledgement of the problem.

Groups have used the report to strengthen their case for an increase in the minimum wage, changes to Employment Insurance, requests for better school feeding programs, the impact of poverty on health, and suggestions for ways to overcome the problem. There have been many references to food insecurity since the report’s release in July and many groups here are waiting for the 2012 report as we expect it will have a similar impact.”

Jeff Wingard, Coordinator, McMaster Community Poverty Initiative, McMaster University

“This groundbreaking research from PROOF not only describes the growing problem that food insecurity represents in many of our communities across the country, it also paints a disturbing picture of an uncoordinated, unsystematic, and insufficient response. Many Canadians will, no doubt, be surprised by the level of food insecurity and outright hunger amidst this country of plenty. Indeed, the greatest strength of this report may be that it forces all of us to take a long, hard look at the kind of Canada we all want to be a part of and galvanizes a response to make food insecurity a thing of the past.”

Food Insecurity 2012 Infographic

Download French Infographic

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