Food Insecurity: Current Problems

Food Insecurity Reports

September 29, 2020

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Beyond Hunger

“Community Food Centres (CFC) – Release of “Beyond Hunger.”

Even before COVID-19, food insecurity affected nearly 4.5 million Canadians. In the first two months of the pandemic, that number grew by 39 per cent. Food insecurity now affects one in seven people, disproportionately impacting low-income and Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities. “Beyond Hunger illustrates that food insecurity is about equity and income,” says Saul. “We urgently need a national solution that goes beyond emergency food assistance. We need a solution founded in solid policy that addresses inadequate social programs, systemic racism and precarious employment.”

Why Food Insecurity happens in Canada:

  • People are stuck in low wage and precarious jobs
  • Canadians are struggling with a rising cost of living
  • Colonialism and systemic racism
  • Low social assistance rates trap people in poverty
  • More and more people are living alone
  • Food in the North is unaffordable


  • 81% say it takes a toll on their physical health
  • 79% say it impacts their mental health
  • 57% say it is harder to find and keep a good job
  • 53% say it is a barrier to finding meaning in life
  • 58% say it limits their ability to take part in social activities
  • 46% say it limits their ability to celebrate their culture

We believe government policy is necessary to address the real cause of food insecurity. Policy is what will increase incomes and make life more affordable — for everyone. Here are four policy changes for the federal government to act on:

  1. Invest in income supports for low income Canadians
    • Increase income benefits for single adults who suffer disproportionately from food insecurity by:
    • Ensuring low-wage workers have equal access to Employment Insurance.
    • Improving existing tax benefits so they provide more income by making them refundable.
    • Creating a tax credit specifically for working-age adults.
    • Ensure low-income Canadians, especially First Nations living on reserve, have better access to tax filing supports and benefit services.
  2. Make life more affordable for Canadians
    • Speed up the implementation of the Canada Housing Benefit, which supports people who can’t
    • afford their housing.
    • Increase federal funding for early learning and child care.
    • Move forward with a universal public pharmacare program.
  3. Set targets and improve reporting on food security
    • Set targets to reduce food insecurity.
    • Ensure Statistics Canada reports on food insecurity annually and collects better race-based data.
  4. Ensure progress on food insecurity is achieved equitably
    • In partnership with Northern leadership, continue to reform Nutrition North Canada.
    • In partnership with Indigenous leadership, create an Indigenous food sovereignty fund.
    • In partnership with Black communities, create a fund to decrease food insecurity for Black Canadians.
    • Apply a racial equity lens to all poverty and food-security policies.

October 21, 2020

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Climate crisis and First Nations Right to Food

The Narwhal – Human Rights Watch released “My fear is Losing Everything: Climate Crisis and First Nations’ Right to Food in Canada“. The report details how longer and more intense forest fire seasons, permafrost degradation, volatile weather patterns and increased levels of precipitation are all affecting wildlife habitat and, in turn, harvesting efforts.

The report also outlines how there are more hunting and foraging risks due to warming temperatures. For instance, it’s harder — and sometimes impossible — to hunt caribou because the ice and permafrost they travel on isn’t stable enough for hunters.

“Climate change threatens to decimate these food systems, risking further serious consequences for livelihoods and health,” the report states. – _ftn301

The report also found that climate change is driving up prices for less-nutritious, store-bought alternatives that need to be brought in from the south. This is in part due to the fact that roads constructed from snow and ice are becoming less reliable because of warmer winters, meaning food needs to be flown in, which is far more expensive. This compounds the risk of food poverty for First Nations people, the report states.

Canada gets a failing grade on mitigating the effects of climate change, according to the report. The country is among the top 10 emitters of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, with per capita emissions upward of four times higher than the global average, the report states, noting that between 1990 and 2017, emissions increased by roughly 19 per cent, mainly due to mining and oil and gas production.

Canada is warming roughly twice as fast as the global average; in the North, it’s even worse, with temperatures rising three times as quick.

Human Rights Watch lays out several recommendations for the federal government, including that:

  • Canada deem the right to food a basic human right
  • strengthen its climate change policies to reduce emissions
  • improve climate adaptation measures in First Nations and
  • support a transition toward renewable energy, including for First Nations, in the COVID-19 stimulus package. – _ftn301

March 2, 2018

Fed. Govt.

Food Sovereignty and Harvesting

Qukiqtani Inuit Association: “Food Sovereignty and Harvesting” – Food sovereignty for Inuit means the right to nutritious locally-sourced food. In Nunavut this translates to country food. Harvesters play an integral role in Inuit food sovereignty. They provide country food that feeds communities, reinvigorates Inuit cultural practices and stimulates local economies. Food sovereignty incorporates Inuit knowledge, language, culture continuity and community self-sufficiency. Supporting food sovereignty shows a commitment towards reconciliation.

Nutrition North Canada (NNC) is a Government of Canada subsidy program intended to provide Northerners in isolated communities with improved access to perishable nutritious food. QIA echoes the position articulated by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. about the shortcomings of Nutrition North Canada. Like previous food subsidy programs, Nutrition North has fallen short of meeting its objectives.

“We found that [The Ministry] has not verified whether the northern retailers pass on the full subsidy to consumers.” Auditor General, 2014

  • NNC does not subsidize hunting, fishing and harvesting equipment which creates systemic barriers for Inuit to cultivate our local food systems
  • Less than one per cent of the total NNC budget has contributed to increasing access to country food
    NNC preferentially supports imported, factory-farmed animal protein rather than locally harvested country food
  • NNC is based on a market-driven model that treats food as a commodity rather than a basic human right
  • NNC protects the interest of the retailers by not making public the terms of the agreement between the Government of Canada and northern businesses that benefit from the subsidy
  • NNC allows retailers to exercise arbitrary power over food pricing without checks and balances to ensure the full subsidy is passed on to consumers
  • NNC does not require that landed freight costs of food and the profit margin collected by retailers be made publicly available making it impossible to determine if the subsidy is passed on to consumers
  • NNC program structure is fragmented as it is administrated by different federal departments located in the south”

October 3, 2022

Indigenous food sovereignty requires better and more accurate data collection

by Omid Mirzaei, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Regina; David Natcher, Professor, College of Agriculture and Bioresources, University of Saskatchewan  October 3, 2022

Indigenous Peoples have remained resilient and are making important strides toward food sovereignty through the revitalization of Indigenous food systems and cultural traditions

Wikimedia Commons

Canadian Manufacturing: Indigenous communities are increasingly investing in agriculture to sustain their cultures and economies. Indigenous Peoples have a long history with agriculture — a history that wasn’t always recognized.

For much of the 20th century, scholars claimed that Indigenous farmers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States (CANZUS) were marginal food producers who employed unsustainable farming practices, like slashing and burning, that led to environmental declines and their ultimate downfall.

These scholars argued that the “primitiveness” of Indigenous agriculture was reflected in the technologies they used. They posited that tools used by Indigenous Peoples, like the digging stick, were rudimentary compared to the more advanced plow cultivation used by European farmers.

We now know those claims are incorrect; Indigenous Peoples throughout CANZUS have long engaged in sophisticated forms of agriculture. By some estimates, Indigenous farmers out-produced European wheat farmers in the 17th and 18th centuries by a margin of three to five times per acre.

Despite Indigenous communities’ increasing desire to engage in large-scale commercial agriculture, there is still a lack of data about Indigenous engagement in the agriculture sector in CANZUS. This data is crucial to informing policies that set out to support Indigenous engagement and diversity in the agriculture sector.

Indigenous food sovereignty

Through the erasure of Indigenous agricultural histories, premised on the notion of terra nullius, CANZUS governments justified their appropriation of Indigenous lands and the territorial dispossession of Indigenous Peoples.

Latin for “land belonging to no one”terra nullius was a legal term used in the Doctrine of Discovery to refer to land that was not occupied by the settlers or used according to their law and culture. Such land was considered “vacant” and available for colonization.

Yet in the face of governmental efforts to dismantle Indigenous agricultural economies, Indigenous Peoples have remained resilient and are making important strides toward food sovereignty through the revitalization of Indigenous food systems and cultural traditions.

Beyond food sovereignty, by reclaiming their agricultural roots, Indigenous Peoples are also alleviating food insecurity and contributing to economic development in their communities. As supporters of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it’s important that CANZUS governments prioritize and support these Indigenous food sovereignty initiatives.

National databases are lacking

Although Indigenous Peoples have been participating in the agriculture sector since precolonial times, it hasn’t been until recently that contemporary agriculture has become a policy focus for Indigenous community development and well-being.

However, little knowledge exists about contemporary Indigenous agriculture in CANZUS because of the lack of comprehensive databases at the national level. National scale data collection tools that are currently available are still fairly new or non-existent.

1. Canada

In Canada, the Census of Agriculture does not allow farm and ranch producers to self-identify as Indigenous. However, data from the Census of Agriculture and the Census of Population provide some information about Indigenous engagement in agricultural activities.

Data from both censuses is linked using information which is common to both questionnaires such as name, sex, birth date and address of the operators. This information is used to create the Agriculture-Population linkage database, which provides useful information about Indigenous engagement in agriculture in Canada.

2. Australia

Australia does not maintain a national scale database on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (collectively referred to as Indigenous) production in the agriculture sector. The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Agriculture Census also doesn’t allow farm and ranch producers to self-identify as Indigenous, which creates a significant data gap about Indigenous agricultural operations in Australia.

Despite this, there is still information available about the people employed in the industry, including those who identify as Indigenous, through the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Census of Population and Housing.

3. New Zealand

In New Zealand, information about Māori farms (the Māori are the Indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, or Aotearoa in the Māori language), are compiled using the Agricultural Production Survey.

Māori farms are identified by matching the survey to three sources of data: Māori enterprises from the Māori authorities, self-identified Māori businesses from the business operations survey and a database held by Statistics New Zealand’s partner Poutama Trust. The matching process yields information about Māori engagement in agriculture, such as the number of agricultural operations, livestock and horticulture crops Māori farm operations have.

4. United States

In the U.S., a national scale data collection effort was piloted in 2002 in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota to collect information about agricultural activity on American Indian reservations. Starting with the 2007 Census of Agriculture, this pilot project was expanded to include reservations across the U.S.

The Census of Agriculture in the U.S. allows farm and ranch producers to self-report agricultural activity on American Indian reservations. If producers don’t respond to the mailed report, census employees — many who are tribal members that can bridge language or cultural barriers — follow up with them in person to help them completing their forms. The process yields an overview of agricultural activity on reservations in the U.S.

Better data is needed

The lack of baseline data on the scale and scope of Indigenous involvement in the agriculture sector continues to be an obstacle to effective engagement of Indigenous communities within the sector. This gap in data prevents governments and agri-food organizations from knowing what kinds of supports should be provided to reinvigorate Indigenous agricultural economies.

In order to better support the involvement of Indigenous Peoples in agriculture, more accurate data is needed. Being able to collect such data is crucial for developing a framework for Indigenous Peoples and communities that are interested in starting or expanding their engagement with the agriculture sector.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.