Linda Geggie is the executive director with the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable and can be reached at lgeggie@cfair.ca.

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sean Hart, 34, unexpectedly left the Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility in Saanich on Nov. 6, 2020 and has now been missing for six months. (Photo courtesy Penny Hart)
Search continues for Saanich man Sean Hart six months after his disappearance

Support from community, police keeps his mother hopeful

Police stopped, then let go this man and his large collection of cans during a stop Monday morning on Resthaven Drive. Police had received a report of a possible theft, but let him go after he had returned the property, which he believed was his to take after being left out in public. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Report of theft, balancing act on Sidney street draws curious onlookers

Incident happened just before 8:30 a.m. opposite of Vancouver Island Regional Library branch

Daniel Foster, last seen in downtown Parksville on Saturday, May 1. (submitted photo)
RCMP seek help locating missing Victoria man, last spotted in Parksville

Daniel Foster, 43, seen via surveillance camera using an ATM

Oak Bay resident Hugh Thompson died Friday, May 7. (GoFundMe photo)
Oak Bay dad dies mountain biking near Shawnigan Lake

Community rallies around family with online fundraiser

Victoria Police Department looks to identify a person of interest after a Friday night stabbing. (VicPD handout)
Police seek person of interest after Victoria stabbing

Friday night assault leaves one with potentially life-altering injuries

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike on Snowbirds plane during training in Comox

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

Most Read