Household food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic

This study presents data on levels of household food insecurity in the 10 provinces from the September to December 2020 cycle of the Canadian Community Health Survey. In this survey, household food security status within the previous 12 months was measured using a scale that has been routinely used to monitor levels of household food insecurity in Canada. This provided the ability to draw comparisons with pre-pandemic levels.

Both before and during the pandemic, certain population groups were more vulnerable to food insecurity in their household. They included people with lower levels of education, those who rent their dwelling, those in lone-parent-led households and those in households reliant on social assistance as their primary source of income. Compared with the pre-pandemic period of 2017/2018, levels of household food insecurity were either unchanged or slightly lower in fall 2020 among groups vulnerable to food insecurity.

Food insecurity and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Canadians living in households that experienced food insecurity (insecure or inadequate access to food because of financial constraints) during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic were significantly more likely to perceive their mental health as fair or poor and to report moderate or severe anxiety symptoms than Canadians in food-secure households. Approximately one in seven Canadians (14.6%) were estimated to live in a food-insecure household in May 2020.

This study, released in Health Reports, is the first to examine the association between household food insecurity and self-perceived mental health and anxiety among Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also estimated that 9.3% of Canadians living in food-insecure households reported having recently accessed free food or meals from a community organization.