Food Access and Insecurity
Access to an adequate supply of food has direct benefits to the health and safety of individuals and communities. Access to food is affected by our local and global food systems, which includes the production, processing, distribution and consumption of food.
Food insecurity happens when an individual or household does not have enough money to purchase adequate food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences in socially acceptable ways. People in food insecure households may have to eat less, skip meals, or sometimes not eat for an entire day.
An estimated seven per cent of York Region households experienced food insecurity between 2009 and 2014, representing approximately 24,700 households.
Food insecurity is a serious public health issue. It impacts children's physical and mental health and puts adults at a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and depression.
Nutritious Food Basket
The Nutritious Food Basket is a list of 67 basic, nutritious foods that make up a healthy diet. Each year, York Region Public Health collects the lowest cost for these foods from nine local grocery stores and calculates the minimum cost of the Nutritious Food Basket. The York Region Nutritious Food Basket — 2019 fact sheet reveals that for many families in York Region, incomes are inadequate to afford the cost of nutritious food and fixed expenses, such as rent and hydro. This is food insecurity – the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints.
Factors associated with food insecurity, which must be addressed to reduce food insecurity rates include inadequate incomes, lack of affordable housing and precarious employment. Programs such as food banks and community meals provide short-term relief for those in need.
York Region Food Charter
A Food Charter is a guiding document based on a set of values used to develop food-related policies and programs.
In 2013, a collaborative group in York Region developed the York Region Food Charter. Its vision is to create a thriving, resilient, healthy and just food system for all. It promotes a food system that provides access to local, affordable and nutritious food.
The York Region Food Charter includes five guiding values:
- Health and well-being
- Economic opportunities
- Environmental sustainability
- Equity and social justice
- Education and skills
Visit the York Region Food Network web page to learn more about the Charter.
Building healthy communities
The built environment is the design of the community where we live, work and play. It has a big impact on our health by shaping our ability to be physically active, to have access to healthy food, and to make connections with others.
Access to healthy food means being able to easily find and purchase a variety healthy food that is affordable, safe, and meets a person’s dietary needs and food preferences. To learn more about what affects our access to food in York Region, visit the Building Healthy Communities Food Access Fact Sheet.
The built environment is determined through regional and municipal official plans, which describe how land will be used. Visit the York Region Official Plan web page to learn more.
To find out more about the built environment, its impact on health, and how you can get involved, watch Ottawa Public Health’s My Community, My Health video.
Food programs and local food in York Region
Food programs make healthy, affordable food more accessible to York Region residents. Local food availability supports environmental sustainability and York Region agriculture and farmers.
In 2015, a collaborative group in York Region completed a community food assessment to examine food-related issues in York Region with the goal of improving the local food system.
View the Growing Good Food in York RegionReport.
Find food programs and local food in your community:
- The Farm Fresh Map provides locations of local farms and farmers markets
- Community Gardens offer York Region residents the opportunity to grow their own food, no matter their gardening level or ability, and make connections with other gardeners
- The Good Food Box is available to all York Region residents. Customers order and receive a box of affordable fresh fruits and vegetables each month, available for pick up from the York Region Food Network and satellite sites
- Community Kitchens are places where people gather to cook healthy meals together, learn new food skills and make connections with others. These programs are available to all York Region residents at no or low-cost
- Community meals provide an opportunity to enjoy a meal with others
- York Region residents can go to a local food bank to access food that is free of charge
- The York Region on a Limited Budget booklet provides helpful information to the one-in-six York Region residents who struggle to make ends meet. Individuals and agencies can order their copy at yssn.ca/UpYourLife
Approximately 40 per cent of food is wasted in Canada each year, totalling $31 billion, or $1,456 per household. In February 2017 the Government of Ontario released its Ontario Food and Organic Waste Framework as part of its Climate Change Action Plan to reduce the amount of food and organic waste that is generated each year in the province.
The Regional Municipality of York is committed to reducing food waste by 15 per cent by 2031. In 2014, York Region joined 13 other government, food industry, academia and not-for-profit agencies to launch the Ontario Food Collaborative (OFC). The goal of the OFC is to support Ontarians to eat well and reduce food waste. In 2015, York Region launched the Good Food Program, which provides residents with tips and tools on how to save time, money and food. York Region and the local municipalities have also run the Composting and Green Bin program for over 10 years, to prevent food waste and other organics from going in the garbage.
To learn more about how you can reduce food waste at home, visit:
Partners and related information
York Region Food Network’s (YRFN) vision is Food for Health – Food for All. YRFN offers programs and education to ensure the people of York Region have healthy and sustainable food. YRFN is a regional hub for the promotion of food security, fostering collaborations and partnerships to create a healthy, accessible and sustainable food system in York Region.
PROOF – Food Insecurity Policy Research is an interdisciplinary research team investigating household food insecurity in Canada. The goal of this research program is to identify effective policy approaches to reduce household food insecurity, which is defined as the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints.
PROOF examines household food insecurity in Canada focusing on the following areas:
- The cost of food insecurity
- Current policies and their effect on food insecurity
- Defining the material conditions necessary to prevent household food insecurity
- Modeling the impact of interventions on household food insecurity
- Understanding how food insecurity is framed as a policy issue
Ontario Dietitians in Public Health (ODPH) Food Insecurity Workgroup (FIWG) and Food Systems Workgroup (FSyWG) provide dietitians working at York Region’s Public Health the opportunity for collaboration, knowledge exchange and coordinated advocacy among ODPH members working towards effective solutions to the problem of household food insecurity and toward a sustainable food system.
Nutrition Services worked with York Region Environmental Services on the Good Food Program. This program helps residents take action to prevent food waste by promoting the benefits of meal planning, shopping wisely and proper portioning to avoid purchasing more food than is needed.
The Ontario Food Collaborative brings together specialists from government, not-for-profit agencies, academia and the food industry to work collaboratively on the shared vision of reducing food waste in Ontario at the residential level.
- York Region Food Network
- PROOF – Food Insecurity Policy Research
- Ontario Dietitians in Public Health - No Money for Food is … Cent$less
- DC Food Insecurity Position Statement
- Middlesex-London Health Unit - Food Insecurity
- Ottawa Public Health - Household food insecurity infographic
- Peterborough Public Health - Limited Incomes: A Recipe for Food Insecurity
- Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit - No money for food is … Cent$less
- Love Food Hate Waste
- Government of Ontario Food and Organic Waste Framework
- Healthy Eating on a Budget