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Food insecurity hits laid off workers, households with kids harder amid pandemic: StatsCan

Number of Canadians having trouble getting enough food went up during COVID-19

The number of Canadians who are food insecure has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey from Statistics Canada has found.

The survey released Tuesday found that 14.6 per cent of Canadians reported food insecurity when asked about the last 30 days on May 4 to 10, compared to 10.5 per cent in a 2017/18 survey.

Statistics Canada defines food insecurity as the “inability to acquire or consume an adequate diet quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so.”

May’s survey also found that households with children, as well as those with workers who were laid off due to COVID-19, were more likely to have trouble getting enough food. Nineteen per cent of households with kids reported food insecurity compared to 12.2 per cent of those with no kids. Additionally, 9.1 per cent of households with kids reported that the adults did not eat despite being being hungry, compared to 4.6 per cent of households without children.

People who were absent from work due to the pandemic – but still employed, such as a temporary layoff – were three times more likely to experience food insecurity compared to those who still had jobs. In its results, Statistics Canada said it counted workers were those who were absent from work due to business closure, layoff, or personal circumstances in its “absent from work” category. The survey found that 28.4 per cent of those people were having trouble getting enough food, compared to 10.7 per cent of those working. People who were altogether unemployed had a food insecurity rate of 16.8 per cent.

Statistics Canada’s survey included 4,600 people from all 10 provinces during the week of May 4 to 10. The agency was not able to look at how receiving COVID-related benefits, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, affected food insecurity.

READ MORE: Only 20% of B.C. workers feel ‘very comfortable’ returning to work during pandemic


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