Food Insecurity

Seven houses


What is Food Insecurity?

Food insecurity means a household does not have enough money to buy food. It can range from worrying about running out of food, to filling up on cheaper, less nutritious foods, to skipping meals or going without eating. Poverty is the root cause of food insecurity. 

1 in 7 households are food insecure in our Health Unit region. 

Food insecurity is a serious public health problem

It can lead to higher rates of:

  • Diabetes, high blood pressure, and poor oral health in adults
  • Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
  • Health care system use
  • In children, higher rates of asthma and depression later in life

The Cost of Healthy Eating

Every year, the Health Unit visits 12 local grocery stores to determine the cost of healthy eating. In 2019, the monthly cost of nutritious food for a family of four in our district was $936.32.

Year after year, the results show that it is very difficult, and in some cases impossible, for low income households to pay for the costs of living, including healthy food.

Food charity programs like food banks and soup kitchens can provide some emergency relief. However, they do not address the root cause of food insecurity, which is poverty. Only about 20-25% of households experiencing food insecurity use food charity programs.

Food insecurity is an income problem

Food insecurity is closely linked with income. The lower the household income, the more likely a households is to live with food insecurity.

People with employment: About 60% of food insecure households have income from employment. Due to low wages, part time hours, and lack of benefits, having a job doesn't always provide enough money for the costs of living, including food.

People receiving social assistance: About 64% of people receiving social assistance rates are food insecure, and are much more likely to live with severe food insecurity.  

What You Can Do

  • Poverty is the root of the problem. Food insecurity must be addressed with government policy change.

    • Learn more about food insecurity and poverty here.
    • Share this information about food insecurity and help break down myths about people living in poverty. 
    • Talk to your local MP and MPP about policy solutions like higher social assistance rates, more secure job opportunities with benefits, and a basic income for all. 
    • Vote. Governments make decisions that affect income. Learn about party platforms and vote for the candidate that best aligns with your values.
    • Sign your local food charter and stay up to date with local initiatives related to food insecurity and social justice at Nipissing Area or Parry Sound Area

Taking Action

The Health Unit is involved in ongoing public health advocacy. Below are some examples our advocacy efforts about the need for income solutions to reduce food insecurity in Ontario.

Letter calling for a basic income before and after COVID-19

Support letter for Bill 60: An act to amend the Ministry of Community and Social Services Act to establish the Social Assistance Research Commission

Response letter for cancellation of Basic Income Pilot Project

Feedback letter for Income Security: A Roadmap for Change report consultation


2019 Income Scenarios

 The 2019 Income Scenarios show the cost of healthy eating and local rent rates compared with various household types and sources of income.  

Food Insecurity Poster

 Food Insecurity

Affiche d’insécurité alimentaire

 affiche d’insecurite


North Bay

345 Oak Street West

Parry Sound

70 Joseph Street Unit #302

Burk's Falls

17 Copeland Street (by appointment only)