N.L. food security best in Canada: report

Andrew Robinson
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A report focusing on the level of food insecurity across Canada suggests Newfoundland and Labrador is in a better position than any other province or territory.

According to a report called “Household Food Insecurity in Canada, 2011,” the province’s food insecurity rate was the lowest in the country at 10.6 per cent.

The report shows the pro-vince’s rate has declined every year since 2007, when it was 15.7 per cent. That trend was unique to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Kristie Jameson, executive director for the Food Security Network of Newfoundland and Labrador, said the report’s findings come from the perspective of food security in relation to economic access to food.

“If you look at the timelines from 2007 to 2011, we have certainly in this province seen economic growth and a fair number of people coming out of poverty ... which I would say is the reason why we’re seeing a decrease in the amount of food insecurity from the perspective of economic access,” said Jameson.

She also noted that trends identified in the report are consistent with information coming from Food Banks Canada. Its annual hunger report for 2012 showed that for the year ending March 2012, 27,044 people used food banks in the province. That’s a decrease of almost 1,600 people compared to 2011.

That report also notes that Newfoundland and Labrador has experienced a decline in social assistance beneficiaries over the last few years. The report adds that social assistance benefits in the province are amongst the highest in Canada at $9,593, though it notes that figure remains “far below” the poverty level.

The food insecurity report found a slight difference between food insecurity rates in Canada for rural areas (10 per cent) and urban centres (almost 13 per cent). Jameson suggests this, too, may help explain why Newfoundland and Labrador’s level of food insecurity was lower than other jurisdictions.

“That might also being playing a role in this, because of those histories and traditions of gardening, farming, and fishing and harvesting in the country and wild foods.”

Jameson also referenced the practice in rural areas of informally bartering with others. For example, a person may do a favour for an acquaintance and receive fish or moose as a form of gratitude. There are also cases where people share food with family members and neighbours in rural areas.


Problems remain

While this may offer good news for people in Newfoundland and Labrador, Jameson said people should not lose sight of the fact there remains “very real and very lived experiences of food insecurity across the province.”

The Canadian average for food insecurity for 2011 was 12.3 per cent. Amongst the provinces, the three highest rates for food insecurity were recorded in the Maritime provinces.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s rate was also the lowest in the country for children in food insecure homes at 14.2 per cent.

From a food sustainability perspective, Jameson said the province is at a disadvantage given its geographic makeup. She notes there have been instances in the past where Newfoundland and Labrador’s food supply has been threatened by weather and labour disputes.

“We are faced with a position where we only have two-to-three days supply of fresh fruits and vegetables in the province,” she said of such threats. “There’s still broader issues when we think about food security than just the economic access component, although that of course is a huge issue.”

Jameson said there is a lot of good work happening across the province to address food insecurity, citing the existence of community gardens, farmers’ markets, community kitchens, and other endeavours.

The report was prepared by PROOF, a group of researchers from multiple universities that is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. It used information collected in Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey.



Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador.Kristie Jameson, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Statistics Canada Canadian Community Health Survey.arobinson

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Maritime

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Recent comments

  • david
    August 02, 2013 - 17:38

    The only "insecurity" about Newfoundland's food supply is in getting access to any.....we produce nothing, we rely on Marine Atlantic to ship everything here, and we have to pay a king's ransom for what we get. But at least we're "secure".

  • Tony Rockel
    August 02, 2013 - 13:21

    The best way to ensure food security on the island is to grow a lot more of our own. Our myopic government should be subsidizing hydroponic programs and agriculture (lots of long term jobs in that) instead of wasting billions on the Muskrat Dead Elephant.

    August 02, 2013 - 12:39

    I have to really question the information from Food Bank Canada for several reasons. First they do reports based on one month only, not on a whole years data from all food banks in Newfoundland, several do not send in data, others do not get anything from this group. Second, they are stating their data from March 2012, this is July 2013, where are the 2013 numbers? I have been involved in a large local food bank since the early 90's and my stats do not jive with theirs at all. Our numbers are increasing, and donations are decreasing, where is the security in that? It is getting harder and harder to feed the needy with less and less to feed them with. Not all are on social assistance, many are working poor, single parents, seniors and people who are sick.There is a drop in Social Services clients partly at least due to our aging population, they are going from Social Services to CPP, and more are going to work as low income workers, getting only slighhtly more than they get on social assistance. There is a greater food insecurity than is revealed here, the author should talk to Newfoundland food banks and not take a snapshot in time from a mainland group that does not come close to showing the true picture.

    August 02, 2013 - 11:18

    Yes, please define food security. I beleive it has to be broader than the financial ability to purchase food. There should be quality food available for purchase. Often our "fresh" produce is spoiled before it hits the shelves of grocery stores here on the west coast. Combine issues of transport on Marine Atlantic ferries - delays due to weather or mechanical problems, ferries crashing in wharves etc., with the issue of produce then being trucked into St. John's before trucking back across the island to our grocery stores, and you run into major issues with availability of quality food. To combat this issue, our family has turned our backyard into a kitchen garden, and we freeze or can our produce for the winter months.

  • Define Food Insecurity
    August 02, 2013 - 08:26

    I will have to dig up that report to figure out what they are talking about and if the metric "food insecurity" is meaningful or political. We are totally dependent on ferries, and regularly have empty shelves when trucks get delayed due to high winds grounding the ferries. Often, sale items don't make it in time for the flyers - so it appears that we run a "just in time" food delivery system and that is dangerous. Local food markets are pretty rare and the lot sizes in St. John's are far too small to grow much other than some salad ingredients. Does anyone remember the CN strikes in the 1970's when people would hoard 50lb sacks of flour for bread making from the grocery stores?

  • Chruchill
    August 02, 2013 - 07:26

    If one more ferry crashes into the wharf we'll see just how secure our food supply is.