Food Counts: A Pan-Canadian Sustainable Food Systems Report Card


Pillar #1: Focuses on Food For People

This principle speaks to putting people’s need for food at the centre of policies and insists that food is more than just a commodity.

Summary of Indicator Data

Food Access Indicators

Indicator 1: Fruit & vegetable consumption, Status:Getting Worse
Indicator 2: Fruit & vegetable consumption by Aboriginal identity, Status:One Point in Time Data*
Indicator 3: Food availability, Status:Mixed
Indicator 4: Food expenditures, Status:Mixed
Indicator 5: Consumer price index, Status:Getting Worse
Indicator 6: Food waste, Status:One Point in Time Data*
Indicator 7: Food safety, Status:Not improving

Poverty/ Income Indicators

Indicator 8: People living below the low income measure, Status:Getting Better
Indicator 9: Median annual family income, Status:Mixed
Indicator 10: Unemployment rate, Status: Getting Better
Indicator 11: Food insecurity by household composition, Status:Getting Worse
Indicator 12: Food insecurity by Aboriginal identity, Status:Getting Worse
Indicator 13: Food bank use, Status:Getting Worse

*For this indicator we were only able to extract data from one point in time. We expect that this data will continue to be collected on a regular basis; therefore this current data point will act as the baseline for future reports.

Food Access Indicators

Indicator 1: Fruit and vegetable consumption, 5 servings or more per day

Line graph showing the decline in consumption of fruits and vegetables from 43% in 2010 to 39% in 2014.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey. This data refers to the population 12 years of age and over. Certain exclusions apply (please see ‘data specifics’ for this indicator in Appendix B).

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

Between 2010 and 2014 there has been a gradual decrease in the proportion of individuals over the age of 12 consuming 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day. In 2014, only 39.5% of individuals over the age of 12 consumed 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables compared to 43.3% of individuals in 2010.

Indicator 2: Fruit and vegetable consumption, 5 servings or more per day by Aboriginal identity

Bar graph showing daily consumption of fruits and vegetables by Aboriginal Identity, 35.4% for First Nations peoples, 38.0% for Métis peoples, 25.7% for Inuit peoples, and 44.2% for Non-Aboringinal peoples.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey. This data refers to the population 12 years of age and over and does not include persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces (please see ‘data specifics’ for this indicator in Appendix B for more information).

Interpretation of Findings: “One point in time data”

First Nations, Metis and Inuit individuals were less likely to consume 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day compared to non-Aboriginal individuals (35.4%, 38% and 25.7% respectively compared to 44.2%). Inuit individuals were the least likely to consume fruits and vegetables, with just over one quarter consuming 5 or more servings per day.

For additional reading on this indicator, please see: Martin, D., & Amos, M. (2016). What constitutes good food? Towards a critical Indigenous perspective of food and health. In M. Koc, J. Sumner & A. Winson (Eds.), Critical perspectives in food studies (pp. 205-220). Toronto, Ontario: Oxford.

Indicator 3: Food availability (select categories)

Bar graph detailing the changes in food availability of eggs, apple, pears, carrots, onions and shallots, and potatoes from 2011 to 2015.
Source: Statistics Canada, compiled by Statistics Canada through various survey sources Note: The food categories shown here were selected based on items that can be grown locally in Canada, although these food availability numbers reflect both locally grown and imported products.

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

The results for ‘Food Availability’ depend on the food. For example, there is an increase in the availability of eggs, a decrease in the availability of potatoes and variation for other foods.

Indicator 4: Food expenditures

Indicator 4
Source: Statistics Canada, Survey of Household Spending

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

Canadian households spent an average of $8,109 a year on food in 2014 ($5,880 at stores and $2,229 at restaurants) which is slightly more than the average of $7,850 spent on food in 2010 ($5,709 at stores and $2,141 at restaurants). In 2010, $7,850 spent on food represented 11% of total household expenditures compared to $8,109 representing 10% of total household expenditures. It is difficult to ascertain whether these findings should be interpreted as positive or negative. For example, it may be a positive finding that Canadians are spending more money purchasing food from restaurants if those purchases are supporting local businesses, yet it may also reflect a greater reliance on highly processed, ‘fast food’ purchases. Moreover, figures suggesting Canadians are spending more on food overall may reflect higher food prices but this could represent a shift to food becoming increasingly prioritized as a family expense.

Indicator 5: Consumer price index

Indicator 5.png
Source: Statistics Canada, Consumer Price Index

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

While the costs of many Consumer Price Index categories rose between 2011 and 2015, food saw the largest increase of any category. Specifically, the food category rose just under 13 points from 127.7 in 2011 to 140.5 in 2015. This is compared to an eight point increase for shelter costs, a three point increase for clothing and footwear costs, a one point increase for transportation costs, a three point increase for health and personal care costs, a four point increase for recreation and education costs and a 5 point decrease for energy costs between the years 2011 and 2015. The Consumer Price Index is not a cost-of-living index. The objective behind a cost-of-living index is to measure changes in expenditures necessary for consumers to maintain a constant standard of living. The idea is that consumers would normally switch between products as the price relationship of goods changes. If, for example, consumers get the same satisfaction from drinking tea as they do from coffee, then it is possible to substitute tea for coffee if the price of tea falls relative to the price of coffee. The cheaper of the interchangeable products may be chosen. We could compute a cost-of-living index for an individual if we had complete information about that person’s taste and spending habits. To do this for a large number of people, let alone the total population of Canada, is impossible. For this reason, regularly published price indexes such as the Consumer Price Index are based on the fixed-basket concept rather than the cost-of-living concept.

Indicator 6: Food waste

Indicator 6.png
Source: Value Chain Management International, “$27 Billion” Revisited: The Cost of Canada’s Annual Food Waste Report

Interpretation of Findings: “One point in time data”

As of 2014, the quantifiable value of food waste in Canada was estimated to be 31 billion dollars. This is distributed among a variety of sectors with food waste mostly occurring at the consumer level (47%), followed by food processing (20%), on farm (10%) and at the retail level (10%).

Indicator 7: Food safety

Indicator 7
Source: Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Interpretation of Findings: “Not improving”

In order to assess food safety in Canada we collected data on the number of food recall warnings distributed to the public per year between 2013 and 2016. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency distributes warnings and has a three tiered classification system: Class I (high risk), Class II (moderate risk) or Class III (low and no risk). “Class I” is a situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of, or exposure to, a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death. “Class II” is a situation in which the use of, or exposure to, a violative product may cause temporary adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote. “Class III” is a situation in which the use of, or exposure to, a violative product is not likely to cause any adverse health consequences. In 2013, the number of high risk (Class I) food recall warnings was 90 compared to 111 in 2016. The highest number of high risk food recalls occurred in 2014 (n=118) and the lowest in 2015 (n=80). The number of moderate risk (Class II) food recall warnings remained relatively stable between 2013 and 2016 while the number of low risk (Class III) food recall warnings increased during this time from 2 in 2013 to 8 in 2016.

For additional reading on this indicator, please see: Martin, W., Muncdel, E., and Rideout, K. (2016). Finding balance: Food safety, food security and public health. In C. Anderson, J. Brady & C. Levkoe (Eds.), Conversations in food studies (pp. 168-190). Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press.

Poverty/Income Indicators

Indicator 8: Families living below the low income measure

Indicator 8
Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Income Estimates for Census Families and Individuals

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

The proportion of families in Canada living below the after tax low income measure (LIM) has decreased from 18% in 2009 to 17% by 2013.

Indicator 9: Median annual family income

Indicator 9
Source: Statistics Canada, Annual Income Estimates for Census Families and Individuals

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

Between 2009 and 2013 the median total family after tax incomes increased for all types of families. Couple families saw the most improvement with an annual median income increasing from $65,820 in 2009 to $72,930 by 2013, a percentage increase of 10.8%. Among low income families, low income persons not in census families saw the least improvement with an annual median income in 2009 of $9,850 increasing to $10,850 by 2013, a percentage increase of 9.2%. This is compared to a percentage increase of 9.5% for low income lone-parent families and a percentage increase of 10.4% for low income couple families. Since these increases in income do not account for inflation, we have categorized this as a mixed category.

Please see the Glossary for definitions of family types.

Indicator 10: Unemployment rate

Indicator 10.png
Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

The overall unemployment rate for adults 15 years of age and older has declined gradually from 8.1% in 2010 to 7.0% in 2016, which is a percentage decrease of 13.6%. For the specific age category of 15 to 24 years of age, the unemployment rate is higher at 13.1% (in 2016) but this has also gradually declined from 14.9% in 2010, which is a percentage decrease of 12.3%.

Indicator 11: Moderate and severe food insecurity by household composition

Indicator 11.png
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey ^ Statistics Canada utilizes an 18 question Household Food Security Survey Module to assess household food insecurity and depending on the number of positive responses to these questions, classifies households as food secure, or moderately or severely food insecure. This data represents the combination of moderate and severe food insecurity in Canada. This data refers to the population 12 years of age and over which is why proportions refer to percentages of households experiencing food insecurity rather than number of individuals. It is also important to note that certain population exclusions apply (please see ‘data specifics’ for this indicator in Appendix B for more information).

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

The overall proportion of households who were food insecure (moderate or severe) increased from 7.7% in 2007/2008 to 8.3% in 2011/2012. Within each of the living arrangement categories, the proportion of households who experienced either moderate or severe food insecurity increased during this time period. Lone parent families were the most likely to experience food insecurity (23.3% in 2011/2012) while couples with no children were the least likely (3.4% in 2011/2012).

For more detailed information on food insecurity prevalence in Canada, including the prevalence of ‘marginal food insecurity’ and the prevalence of food insecurity among other specific groups, please see the PROOF reports and fact sheets which are available at http://proof.utoronto.ca.

Indicator 12: Moderate and severe food insecurity by Aboriginal identity

Indicator 12.png
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey ^ Statistics Canada utilizes an 18 question Household Food Security Survey Module to assess household food insecurity and depending on the number of positive responses to these questions, classifies households as food secure, or moderately or severely food insecure. This data represents the combination of moderate and severe food insecurity in Canada. This data refers to the population 12 years of age and over which is why proportions refer to percentages of households experiencing food insecurity rather than number of individuals. It is also important to note that this data does not include persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces (please see ‘data specifics’ for this indicator in Appendix B for more information).

Interpretation of Findings: “One point in time data”

First Nations, Metis and Inuit individuals were more likely to experience moderate or severe food insecurity compared to non-Aboriginal individuals (20.8%, 14.5% and 26.9% respectively compared to 6.8%). Individuals identifying as Inuit were the most likely to experience food insecurity (26.9%).

For additional reading on this indicator, please see:

Council of Canadian Academies, Expert Panel on the State of Knowledge of Food Security in Northern Canada. (2014) Aboriginal food security in Northern Canada: an assessment of the state of knowledge.

Power, E. M. (2008). Conceptualizing food security for Aboriginal people in Canada. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 99(2), 95-97.

Socha, T., Zahaf, M., Chambers, L., Abraham, R., & Fiddler, T. (2012). Food security in a northern First Nations community: An exploratory study on food availability and accessibility. International Journal of Indigenous Health, 8(2), 5-14.

Wesche, S. D., O’Hare-Gordon, M. A. F., Robidoux, M. A., & Mason, C. W. (2016). Landbased programs in the Northwest Territories: Building Indigenous food security and wellbeing from the ground up. Canadian Food Studies, 3(2), 23-48.

Indicator 13: Number of individuals assisted by food banks

Indicator 13.png
Source: Food Banks Canada, HungerCount Reports ^ This data reflects the numbers of individuals who accessed a food bank across Canada in the month of March for each year.

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

The number of individuals assisted by food banks has increased from 675,735 in 2008 to 863,492 in 2016, which is a percentage increase of 22%. Between 2008 and 2016, food bank use hit its peak in 2012 at 872,379 individuals assisted. In 2016, 36% of those assisted were children. For more detailed information on food bank usage in Canada, including food bank usage by province/territory and among specific groups, please see Food Banks Canada’s HungerCount reports.