Food Insecurity and the Nutritious Food Basket

Last revised: November 23, 2022

Monitoring food affordability in Ottawa

The Nutritious Food Basket  Image of food items and statistics about the cost of buying food in ottawa

The Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) is a monitoring tool used to measure the minimum cost of healthy eating for individuals and families in Canada. Ontario derives its own NFB survey to support consistent data collection at a local level. Each year Ottawa Public Health conducts the NFB survey. The survey measures the cost of basic healthy eating and is used to monitor the affordability and accessibility of healthy foods in Ottawa. Ottawa Public Health and most other Ontario public health units paused the Nutritious Food Basket data collection in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. 

Download the 2022 Nutritious Food Basket Infographic (pdf - 9 MB) 

Download the 2022 Nutritious Food Basket and Food Insecurity in Ottawa Report (pdf - 904 KB). This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly.

How is the NFB calculated? 

The cost of the NFB is calculated using the average lowest cost of 61 food items and their quantities needed for individuals in various age and sex groups. These foods were chosen based on Canada’s Food Guide and reflect Canadian eating and purchasing patterns. Foods included in NFB belong to these main categories: vegetables and fruits, protein foods, whole grains, and fats and oils. Non-food items, personal care items, foods needed for special diets, processed/convenience foods and food eaten outside the home are not included (e.g., toilet paper, soap, diapers, clothing, medications, infant formula, gluten free foods, restaurant foods).  

2022 Nutritious Food Basket
Table 1: Weekly and monthly costs of the NFB per age/sex group in Ottawa
GroupAgeWeekly cost of the NFBaMonthly cost of the NFB (weekly cost X 4.33)a,b
Boys 2 to 3 $39 $171
Boys   4 to 8  $45 $193 
Males 9 to 13  $58 $251
Males 14 to 18  $70 $304
Males  19 to 30  $80 $346
Males 31 to 50 $75 $327 
Males 51 to 70  $66 $287
Males Over 70  $62 $269 
Girls  2 to 3  $39  $171
Girls 4 to 8  $44 $191
Females 9 to 13   $57 $248
Females 14 to 18   $57 $248 
Females  19 to 30   $63 $271
Females  31 to 50 $61 $266
Females  51 to 70   $56 $244
Females  Over 70  $54 $234
Pregnant  18 and younger  $67 $291
Pregnant   19 to 30 $72 $310
Pregnant   31 to 50  $70 $305
Breastfeeding  18 and younger $67 $290 
Breastfeeding   19 to 30  $71 $307
Breastfeeding   31 to 50  $70 $305 
Family of four  Two adults 31 to 50; boy 14; girl 7  $251
$1,088

a All numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number.
b Monthly cost = weekly cost x 4.33

2022 Income scenarios in Ottawa

Annually, the local cost of the Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) and rent are compared with household income from social assistance or minimum wage work to assess whether income from these sources is adequate to cover the cost of these basic necessities. The results of the NFB survey show that low-income households struggle to afford their bills while also putting healthy food on the table. Families often choose between paying for fixed expenses (such as rent, transportation, and heat) and buying groceries.

Table 2: 2022 Income scenarios in Ottawa
Income Scenarios cTotal monthly income dAverage monthly rent dCost of healthy food dMoney left other expenses dPer cent income for housingPer cent income for healthy food

Family of four, Ontario Works

Two adults (male and female ages 31 to 50),

Two children (girl age eight, boy age 14)

$2,760 $1,881 $1,088 -$209 68 per cent 39 per cent

Family of four, minimum wage earner

Two adults (male and female ages 31 to 50),

Two children (girl age eight, boy age 14)

$3,973 $1,881 $1,088 $1,004 47 per cent 27 percent

Family of Four, Median Income (after tax)

Two adults (male and female ages 31 to 50),

Two children (girl age eight, boy age 14)

$9,323 $1,881 $1,088 $6,354 20 per cent 12 per cent

Single parent household, with two children, Ontario Works

One adult (female age 31 to 50),

Two children (girl age eight, boy age 14)

$2,528 $1,550 $800 e $178 61 per cent 32 per cent
One person household, Ontario Works

One adult (male age 31 to 50)

$863 $1,059 $392 f -$588 123 per cent 45 per cent

One person household, Ontario Disability Support Program

One adult (male age 31 to 50)

$1,309 $1,280 $392 f -$363 98 per cent 30 per cent

One person household, Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income Supplement

One adult (female age 70 and over)

$1,885 $1,280 $280 f $325 68 per cent 15 per cent
Married couple, Ontario Disability Support Program

Two adults (male and female age 31 to 50)

$2,322 $1,280 $652 g $390 55 per cent 28 per cent

c The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has provided the income for the scenarios. These include benefits and credits.
d Note, that all dollars rounded to nearest whole number.
e To calculate food expenses for a family of three 5% is added to the monthly NFB.
f To calculate food expenses for a person living alone, 20% is added to the monthly NFB.
g To calculate food expenses for two people living together, 10% is added to the monthly NFB.

 

Please note that the Information Previously Distributed, published on October 26, 2022, in advance of the November Ottawa Board of Health meeting, contains Nutritious Food Basket income scenario data that did not account for household size adjustment factors [Scenarios 4-8]. The data provided on this website and in the 2022 Nutritious Food Basket and Food Insecurity in Ottawa report includes the correct information.

Food Insecurity in Ottawa

Food insecurity refers to the inadequate or insecure access to food due to a lack of money (1). Food insecurity ranges in severity from being worried about running out of food to not being able to afford a balanced diet to going hungry.

Negative health impacts of food insecurity

Food insecurity is a problem that goes beyond an issue of food and its impact on health goes beyond diet and nutrition. People living in food insecure households are much more likely than others to be diagnosed with mental health disorders (such as depression and anxiety), chronic diseases (such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes) and infections (2 to 11). People who are food insecure are more likely to be diagnosed with more than one chronic condition and are less able to manage chronic conditions as they may struggle to adhere to therapeutic diets and afford medications (5, 12, 13).   

Because of its harmful effects on health, household food insecurity places a large burden on the health care system (14). 

Food insecurity in Ottawa and Ontario 

Food insecurity continues to persist in Ottawa. Data from the 2017 Canadian Community Health Survey indicates that 1 in 7 households (13.9 per cent) in Ottawa is food insecure (15).

Ontario food insecurity data from the 2021 Canadian Income Survey suggests that: 

  • Almost 1 in 6 households (16.1 per cent) in Ontario is food insecure, amounting to 2.3 million Ontarians (1).
  • 1 in 5 children in Ontario (20.6 per cent) live in a food-insecure household, amounting to half a million children (1).  
Populations most affected by food insecurity
Statistics from the 2021 Canadian Income Survey include data from the ten provinces but excludes the three territories. The following types of Canadian households disproportionately experience food insecurity: 
  • Households who have inadequate, insecure incomes: 67.2 per cent of households relying on social assistance (Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program) as their main source of income are food-insecure (1). However, having a job does not guarantee an adequate income. The following employed Canadians are most likely to report food insecurity: those with low-wage, short-term or precarious jobs, racialized workers, those working multiple jobs, and those providing for multiple people with a single income (16).  

  • Single parents and individuals living alone: 38.1 per cent of female lone-parent households, 20.9 per cent of male lone-parent households and 20.3 per cent of unattached individuals living alone experience food insecurity (1). 

  • Households who rent their dwelling: 25.9 per cent of renters are affected by food insecurity (1). 

Food insecurity disproportionately affects racialized (non-white) and Indigenous Peoples in Canada. 2021 data from households in the 10 provinces indicates that: 

  • 13.2 per cent of individuals living in food-insecure households identified as white (1). 

  • 15.7 per cent of individuals living in food-insecure households identified as South Asian (1). 

  • 19.8 per cent of individuals living in food-insecure households identified as East/Southeast Asian (1). 

  • 22.4 per cent of individuals living in food-insecure households identified as Black (1). 

  • 27.6 per cent of individuals living in food-insecure households identified as Arab/West Asian (1). 

  • 30.7 per cent of individuals living in food-insecure households identified as Indigenous (1).  

Due to historical and ongoing colonization and systemic racism, Indigenous Peoples are more likely to experience household food insecurity than any other racial or cultural group in Canada (17). 

How to take action

Access to food is a basic human right. Collective efforts to implement long-term, income-based strategies that address poverty, the root cause of food insecurity, are needed to help solve this issue. 

  1. Learn more about the causes of food insecurity and its effect on health (see “To learn more” below).
  2. Contact your Councillor or Member of Provincial Parliament to express your support for solutions that help people afford the cost of living such as:
    • Social assistance programs that pay adequate benefits 
    • Jobs that pay a living wage  
    • A basic income guarantee 
    • Affordable housing, public transit and childcare  
    • Reduced income tax for the lowest income households 
    • Free income tax filing support 
  3. Contact your Councillor or Member of Provincial Parliament to express your support for the establishment of publicly funded food programs such as a national school food lunch program.
  4. Share this information with peers, colleagues, partner agencies and your local members of parliament.

  5.  Become a Living Wage Employer. Living Wage Employers recognize that paying a living wage constitutes a critical investment in the long–term prosperity of the economy by fostering a dedicated, skilled and healthy workforce.

To learn more 
Community resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing food insecurity, here are some resources that can help you and your family:

  • Ottawa Public Health – Mental Health Resources
    • If you are concerned about your mental health, speak to your health care provider or check out the Mental Health and Substance Use Resources List found on Ottawa Public Health's Mental Health web page.
  • Ottawa Food Bank – Find Food Lookup Tool

Healthy food donations

People who cannot afford to buy healthy food suffer from diseases related to poor diet – high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes.  Foods that are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals, low in sodium, sugar and saturated fats are the best options for food donations.  Find out more about...

Why healthy foods matter

Healthy food donations provide essential nutrients to help:

  • strengthen immune systems
  • build and maintain strong bones and teeth
  • reduce risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes
  • improve gut health
  • a child’s body to grow and develop
  • children to be ready to learn at school and play
  • people live their daily life – take care of their children, keep their job, take walks with their families.

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Food donations to food banks or meal programs

Please donate fresh produce and perishables directly to food banks or meal programs.  DO NOT place in donation bins:

  • fresh vegetables
  • fresh fruit
  • fresh milk, yogurt
  • bread
  • cheese

Food donations to donation bins

These foods are suitable for donation bins in grocery stores, food drives, etc.

  • whole grain foods (cereal, pasta, rice)
  • canned salmon, tuna, chicken
  • canned beans and legumes
  • canned vegetables
  • nuts, seeds and nut butters
  • pre-packaged food bank donation bags available at some grocery stores

Foods NOT to donate

Many donated foods are not suitable and may be thrown out:

  • badly dented cans
  • cans with no labels
  • home canned foods
  • opened food packages
  • expired baby formula or meal replacements
  • food that is old and past the best before date
  • alcohol
  • medications
  • dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, etc.)

Donating hot meals, fresh sandwiches or baked good

When donating these food items, follow Ottawa Public Health’s “Tips for preparing food” to kill or reduce the number of food poisoning bacteria that may be present in the foods you donate.

Resource: 

Ministry of Health

Healthy Food Donation Poster

References

  1. Tarasuk V, Li T, Farfard St-Germain A-A. (2022). Household Food Insecurity in Canada 2021. PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research. 
  2. Jessiman-Perreault G, McIntyre L. (2017). The household food insecurity gradient and potential reductions in adverse population mental health outcomes in Canadian adults. SSM -Population Health. 3:464-72
  3. McIntyre et al. (2017). The pervasive effect of youth self-report of hunger on depression over 6 years of follow up. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 52:537-47. 
  4. Men F, Elgar F, Tarasuk V. (2021). Food insecurity is associated with mental health problems among Canadian youth. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 75(8):741-8
  5. Tarasuk et al. (2013). Chronic physical and mental health conditions among adults may increase vulnerability to household food insecurity. J Nutr. 143(11):1785-93. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.178483. 
  6. Melchior M, Chastang J, Falissard B, et al. (2012). Food insecurity and children’s mental health: a prospective birth cohort study. PLoS One. 7(12):e52615.  
  7. Kirkpatrick and McIntyre & Potestio. (2010). Child hunger and long-term adverse consequences for health. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 164(8):754-62.  
  8. Tait C, L’Abbe M, Smith P, et al. (2018). The association between food insecurity and incident type 2 diabetes in Canada: a population-based cohort study. PLoS One. 13(5):e0195962.   
  9. McIntyre L, Williams J, Lavorato D, et al. (2012). Depression and suicide ideation in late adolescence and early adulthood are an outcome of child hunger. Journal of Affective Disorders. 150(1):123-9.  
  10. Cox J, Hamelin AM, McLinden T, et al. (2016). Food insecurity in HIV-hepatitis C virus co-infected individuals in Canada: the importance of co-morbidities. AIDS and Behavior. 21(3):792-802.  
  11. Muirhead V, Quinonez C, Figueriredo R, et al. (2009). Oral health disparities and food insecurity in working poor Canadians. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. 37:294-304.
  12. Chan J, DeMelo M, Gingras J, et al. (2015). Challenges of diabetes self-management in adults affected by food insecurity in a large urban centre of Ontario, Canada. International Journal of Endocrinology. Article ID 903468. 
  13. Men F, Gundersen C, Urquia ML, et al. (2019). Prescription medication nonadherence associated with food insecurity: a population-based cross-sectional study. CMAJ Open. 7(3):E590-E7
  14. Men F, Gundersen C, Urquia ML, et al. (2020). Food insecurity is associated with higher health care use and costs among Canadian adults. Health Affairs. 39(8):1377-85. 
  15. Ottawa Public Health. (2019). Food Security Status of Ottawa Households 2017. Ottawa.
  16. McIntyre L, Bartoo AC, Emery JC. (2014). When working is not enough: food insecurity in the Canadian labour force. Public Health Nutr. 17(1):49-57.  
  17. Ontario Dietitians in Public Health. (2020). Position Statement and Recommendations on Responses to Food Insecurity.  

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