The Ottawa Food Bank is a major distributor of food in our city
Canada’s food banks were originally set up as temporary measures in response to a decline in the economy. There are now more than 800 food banks across Canada. The Ottawa Food Bank opened in 1984 and is the central food collection, storage, and distribution centre for a network of over 100 emergency food programs throughout Ottawa. These programs include community food banks, food cupboards, meal programs and after school snack programs. Many of these programs obtain and distribute food from other sources as well. In addition, the Ottawa School Breakfast Program served more than 2.5 million meals in 2016
In 2016/2017, almost 50% of the food distributed through the Ottawa Food Bank was fresh and they hope to increase this to 60% by 2020.
- Food Banks Canada 2008-2016. HungerCount.
- Ontario Association of Food Banks. Hunger Report 2014, Going hungry to pay the bills: the root causes behind the pervasive cycle of hunger in Ontario.
- Ottawa Food Bank 2005-2017. Year in Review Annual Reports.
Food insecurity affects many residents
The most common cause of food insecurity is inadequate income. Other factors include distance to grocery stores, disabilities that make it hard to acquire and prepare foods, and lack of access to familiar and culturally appropriate foods.
Inadequate food and poor nutrition can impair physical, mental and emotional well-being. In 2014, 16.7% of children in Canada lived in food-insecure households. These children are at higher risk of going to school without eating breakfast. Research has shown that daily nutritious breakfast results in better student performance and school attendance.
- Food Banks Canada 2008-2016. HungerCount. Accessed August 25, 2017.
- Nutritious Food Basket Reports. Ottawa Public Health. 2009 – 2016
- Ontario Association of Food Banks
- School Breakfast Program Statistics 2017. Ottawa Network for Education. Accessed October 2019.
- Tarasuk, V., Mitchell, A., and Dachner, N. Household food insecurity in Canada, 2012. Canadian Institute of Health research. 2012
- Ottawa Neighbourhood Study 2019. Accessed October, 2019
The cost of food and other basic needs has risen sharply
Over the past 10 years, costs for food and shelter have risen much more than the average cost of all consumer items combined. Households must spend a larger proportion of their income to cover these basic needs.
For example, in 2016, an Ottawa couple with two children relying on Ontario Works, would have had to spend 34% of their monthly allowance to meet the cost of a healthy diet, while the average Ontarian spent about 10% of their total expenditures on food.
The Consumer Price Index used in this graphic is for Ontario specifically. This index has a base year of 2002. Food costs for the referenced household of two adults and two children are based on the Ottawa Nutritious Food Basket Survey.
- Ottawa Public Health. Nutritious Food Basket Reports 2009 – 2016
- Statistics Canada. CANSIM Table 326-0021
There is a large difference in food spending between low and high income Ontario households
In 2016, families whose earnings were in the top 20% for income in Ontario spent roughly two times more on food than families in the bottom 20%. Growth in food spending over the five years was proportionately similar between low income and high income residents. It is important to note that higher spending does not guarantee a better diet, but a healthier diet generally costs more.
Annual average spending on food is calculated provincially using the National Survey on Household Spending. This is broken down by the highest and lowest quintiles, which are calculated based on the relative median income of Ontario households in five equal parts.
- Ottawa Public Health. Nutritious Food Basket Reports 2013 – 2016
- Statistics Canada. CANSIM Table 203-0022
The local food system has a role to play in long-term food security
A stronger local food system can mean a more food secure future for all Ottawa residents. For example, local foods can help offset global food price volatility. Depending on production and processing methods, local foods can also be more nutritious.
Strong local food systems can also contribute to economic health. Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs could be added to the Ontario economy with fairly modest growth in the sale of local food.
Recent data is lacking, but in 2005, farming contributed over $400 million to Ottawa's GDP and employed about 10,000 people. However, local processing and distribution infrastructure is not well developed.
Information on community and school gardens was provided by staff at Just Food's Community Gardening Network. Other sources referenced for the infographic and context statement are:
- City of Ottawa 2015. Agriculture. Accessed April 11, 2016.
- City of Ottawa. Economy and Demographics. Long-Range Financial Plan 2006.
- Econometric Research Ltd, 2015. Dollars and Sense: Opportunities to strengthen Southern Ontario's Food System.
- Jennings, Avalon 2012. Sustain Ontario. The Multiplier effect of buying local food. Accessed April 11, 2016.
- Ottawa Start. A Big List of Ottawa Farmer's Markets. Accessed May 30, 2018.
- Statistics Canada 2006. Farming in Canada’s CMAs. Accessed April 11, 2016.