Algoma Public Health
Food insecurity is an urgent election issue
Fri, May 13, 2022
With less than one month to go before the provincial election, Algoma Public Health (APH) is urging individuals and organizations to recognize food insecurity as an urgent public health problem, and call on all candidates seeking election to take action.
Prior to COVID-19, 13% of Ontario households did not have enough money for food or worried about running out of money for food, and 1 in 6 children lived in a household experiencing food insecurity.1 “In a province as rich as Ontario, it is unacceptable that 1.7 million Ontarians struggle to put food on the table,” said Lisa O’Brien, Registered Dietitian at APH.
Food insecurity takes a tremendous toll on the physical, mental, and social health of people of all ages, and costs our healthcare system considerable dollars when responding to preventable negative health and social outcomes. In Ontario, the people who are the most food insecure can have health care costs up to 121% higher than people who are food secure.2
APH monitors food affordability in Algoma by determining the cost of healthy eating. This is done by combining data from the Nutrition Food Basket (NFB) survey tool with rental market housing rates, and comparing the results to monthly incomes for various individual and family household scenarios. Results repeatedly show that minimum wage and social assistance rates do not provide enough money to afford the basic costs of living, including nutritious food.
“Food insecurity is rooted primarily in poverty and it is not a problem that can be solved with food alone (e.g. food banks)," O’Brien states. Policies that help bolster income are needed to significantly improve the lives of people struggling with food insecurity. Policy considerations include adjusting social assistance rates to reflect the cost of living, and the provision of a basic income.
Jobs that pay a living wage with benefits are also important, as 63% of people experiencing food insecurity in our province are already employed.2 A living wage in Sault Ste. Marie is $16.20 per hour, as of November 2021.3
What can you do?
- Learn more about food insecurity here: https://www.odph.ca/centsless
- Ask candidates where they stand on the issue of food insecurity and proposed solutions and/or submit a letter to MPP candidates calling for action: https://www.odph.ca/what-can-you-do
- Tarasuk V, Mitchell A. (2020) Household food insecurity in Canada, 2017-18. Toronto: Research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity (PROOF). Retrieved from https://proof.utoronto.ca/
- Ontario Dietitians in Public Health. (2020). Position Statement and Recommendations on Responses to Food Insecurity. Retrieved from: https://odph.ca/
- Ontario Living Wage Network. (2021). Living Wage by Region. Retrieved from: https://www.ontariolivingwage.ca/living_wage_by_region