The nutritious diet recommended in the new Canada Food Guide is out of reach for millions of Canadians because they can’t afford it.
If we want to stop millions of Canadians from going to bed hungry every night, we need to ensure that they have the ability to access food. So, who is going hungry in this country? We know that BC has the highest poverty rate in Canada. However, did you know that we have a growing community of working poor whose wages do not cover basic necessities? Inadequate wages, shrinking social assistance rates, meagre pensions, illness and disability are at the heart of food insecurity in this country.
Did you know that 31% of single mothers are missing meals so their kids can eat? Or that one in six children live in households that can’t afford to put supper on the table? In BC, the average monthly cost of the 2017 nutritious food basket for a family of four is now $1,019.
Individuals don’t fare better. A person receives $760 per month on social assistance and has $18.25 per week to spend on food. Despite the two increases in the past year that have raised the rate to $760 per month, the additional $150 has been eaten by the increase of $130 in rents to Single Room Occupancy hotels in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (example). Jean Swanson, speaking to her experience on the Welfare Food Challenge says, “It was hard eating on $19 a week (2017 amount). I tried, then cheated and gave up. The food was too boring and not nutritious. Dieticians have told us that you just can’t have a healthy diet on this paltry amount of money.”
The new Canada Food Guide aims to support people to live healthier lives. The new guide provides guidance on what we should eat that is more plants and plant-based protein, more whole grains, less sugar, less saturated fat—and more importantly, how to eat—at home, with others, with joy and pleasure. The addition of this social context is important. We know the power of food to connect us to our communities and neighbours thereby increasing our sense of belonging.
The guidelines in the new Canada Food Guide are to be commended, especially introducing the social aspect on eating with friends, family and at home. As long as we continue to have poverty in our rich country, there will be millions of our neighbours who cannot afford to live healthier lives. Poverty is the root of the problem for those who are food insecure.
We encourage all our members to support the work of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and Raise the Rates, and to support food and garden programs that allow all our community members to eat and share a meal together. CCEC will continue to advocate for decent living wages and fairer social benefits.
For more information:
The new Canada Food Guide highlights the biggest obstacle to healthy eating—poverty – McLeans Article
The New Canada Food Guide
Jean Swanson on Why the Welfare Food Challenge was cancelled in 2018
* Food Costing in BC 2017: Assessing the affordability of healthy eating October 2018