Access to affordable and nutritious food is an ongoing struggle for many Canadian families and experts warn that the situation may worsen in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a Statistics Canada survey in May, almost one in seven Canadians (14.6%) reported living in a household where food insecurity was a problem. This number is up from 10.5% just two years ago.
The COVID-19 pandemic posed distinct challenges to many sectors of the food supply chain that have reshaped their operations with physical distance, the use of personal protective equipment and equipment modifications – which all contribute to rising costs.
“To get food to market, companies in the supply chain will have to charge more,” Sylvain Charlebois of the Dalhousie University Food Analysis Laboratory told CTVNews.ca in an interview. “In the past, there were generally not many relationships between the food supply chain and retail costs, but now costs are going up all around due to COVID-19. That’s why food prices cannot go down. ”
In 2017, the average Canadian household spent approximately $ 8,527 per year on food. The typical inflation rate is generally between 1.5 and 2.5%. Charlebois expects this number to approach 4% once the pandemic is over.
“This fall will see the worst because some government programs like CERB [Canada Emergency Response Benefit] come to an end. Then we will have a full economic picture of what we are dealing with, ”he says.
Charlebois said the federal government is already injecting large amounts of money into the economy through CERB and that any new financial assistance program would be unlikely. He suggested that more families would consider moving outside the big cities to lower their cost of living.
The families likely to be most affected by soaring food prices are Canadian families who were already financially vulnerable and struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic began. Statistics Canada has found that Canadians with children are more likely to live in a food-insecure household.
Another contributing factor to food insecurity in Canada is race. According to FoodShare Toronto executive director Paul Taylor, black and Aboriginal Canadians are more likely to face barriers to affordable food.
“We know that the people who suffer most from food insecurity are black people and Indigenous people,” Taylor told CTVNews.ca. “Research shows that black Canadians are 3.5 times more likely to be food insecure.”
A study by FoodShare Toronto and the University of Toronto’s PROOF research team found that, regardless of property and immigration status, black Canadians continue to suffer the most from food insecurity.
“Ultimately, when we talk about food insecurity, we are also talking about racism against blacks and indigenous people,” added Taylor. “As a country, we must recognize that racism and anti-black racism have a significant impact on health outcomes and access to food.”
Using a political approach, Taylor points to measures that will improve the financial situation of low-income households, such as universal basic income and comprehensive services such as child care and pharmaceutical services.
“We live in one of the richest countries in the world,” he says. “Canadians need basic income and comprehensive social services. Working together, this could have a significant impact on food insecurity. “