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.

Just Posted

Victoria woman reunited with lost family photos dating back to 1970s

‘You can watch their family grow up in these photos,’ says woman who found the box of forgotten photos

Cirque du Soleil brings dazzling ice show Axel to Victoria this spring

Axel includes acrobatics, ice skating, live music and more

Escaped Metchosin inmate sentenced to additional year tacked on to 14-year sentence

Man escaped from William Head Institution arrested days later in Esquimalt

Municipal watchdog call Victoria councillors’ request for salary increase is ‘boneheaded’

Grumpy Taxpayer$ wish to see reductions in councillor wages to meet local average

New, feature-length documentary on missing woman Emma Fillipoff comes out next year

The film follows Fillipoff’s disappearance and the ongoing investigation

VIDEO: The sticky truth about winter moths and how Greater Victoria arborists fight them

Winter moths have ‘killed a lot of trees’ across the region, says Oak Bay arborist

UPDATED: Vancouver Island’s Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

B.C. pushes for greater industry ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

EDITORIAL: It’s time to face the truth on drug use

The homeless don’t own the drug epidemic

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Sentencing scheduled Tuesday for man who killed Belgian tourist

Sean McKenzie pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 28-year-old Amelie Sakkalis near Boston Bar

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

Most Read