Food Insecurity and the Nutritious Food Basket

Monitoring Food Affordability in Ottawa

What is a Nutritious Food Basket?  

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. Except for 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, Ottawa Public Health is required to conduct the NFB survey annually and has done so since 1998. The survey measures the cost of basic healthy eating and is used to monitor the affordability and accessibility of healthy foods in Ottawa. 

Download the 2023 Nutritious Food Basket Infographic (pdf - 1686 KB) 

Download the Ottawa Board of Health - Nutritious Food Basket 2023 and Food Insecurity Report (pdf - 440 KB)

How is the Nutritious Food Basket 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. Canada’s Food Guide is not inclusive of all religious and cultural groups, nor recognize traditional Indigenous foods and food procurement practices, which is one of the limitations of this data collection. 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).  

How is the Nutritious Food Basket Used?

The NFB is not considered a budgeting tool, purchasing guide or a recommended way to eat. Instead, the data is best used alongside household incomes and other basic expenses to show different household situations and their ability to meet basic needs (see 2023 Income Scenarios in Ottawa).

2023 Nutritious Food Basket
Table 1: Weekly and Monthly Costs of the Nutritious Food Basket for Males and Females by Age Group
GroupAgeWeekly cost of the NFBaMonthly cost of the NFB (weekly cost X 4.33)a
Boys 2 to 3 $42 $181
Boys   4 to 8  $48 $204 
Males 9 to 13  $61 $265
Males 14 to 18  $74 $321
Males  19 to 30  $85 $367
Males 31 to 50 $80 $347 
Males 51 to 70  $70 $304
Males Over 70  $66 $284 
Girls  2 to 3  $42  $181
Girls 4 to 8  $47 $202
Females 9 to 13   $61 $262
Females 14 to 18   $61 $262 
Females  19 to 30   $66 $288
Females  31 to 50 $65 $283
Females  51 to 70   $60 $258
Females  Over 70  $57 $247
Pregnant  18 and younger  $71 $307
Pregnant   19 to 30 $76 $329
Pregnant   31 to 50  $75 $324
Breastfeeding  18 and younger $70 $305 
Breastfeeding   19 to 30  $75 $326
Breastfeeding   31 to 50  $75 $324 
Family of four 

Two adults age 31 to 50 and two children, boy 14, girl 8 


Note that if an individual is living alone, an additional 20% is added to the costs of the NFB to account for added expenses. 

a All numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number.

2023 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 determine how affordable food is in Ottawa. The results of the NFB survey show that individuals and households that are on low-income 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: 2023 Income scenarios in Ottawa*
Income Scenarios Total monthly income bAverage monthly rent cCost of healthy food dMoney left other expenses 
Per 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 8, boy age 14)

$2,793 $1,947 $1,153 -$306 70% 41%

Family of Four, Full-Time Minimum Wage Earner

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

Two children (girl age 8, boy age 14)

$4,160 $1,947 $1,153 $1,060 47% 28%

Family of Four, Median Income (after tax)

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

Two children (girl age 8, boy age 14)

$9,284 $1,947 $1,153 $6,184 21% 12%

Single Parent Household, with two children, Ontario Works

One adult (female age 31 to 50),

Two children (girl age 8, boy age 14)

$2,560 $1,625 $847 
$88 64% 33%
One Person Household, Ontario Works

One adult (male age 31 to 50)

$865 $1,122 $416 
-$673 130% 48%

One Person Household, Ontario Disability Support Program

One adult (male age 31 to 50)

$1,369 $1,347 $416 
-$394 99% 30%

One Person Household, Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income Supplement

One adult (female age 70 and over)

$1,993 $1,347 $297 
$349 67% 15%
Married couple, Ontario Disability Support Program

Two adults (male and female age 31 to 50)

$2,433 $1,347 $693 
$393 56% 28%

Single Pregnant Person, Ontario Disability Support Program

One adult (female pregnant age 19-30)

 $1,409 $1,347  $395   -$333 96%   28%

Single Parent Household with Two Children, Full-Time Minimum Wage Earner

One adult (female age 31-50), 2 children (girl age 3, boy age 4)

 $4,302 $1,625  $701   $1,976  38%  16%

* Information from table is derived from 2023 – Monitoring Food Affordability in Ontario (MFAO) Income Scenarios Spreadsheet, Ottawa Public Health, 2023.  Spreadsheet, including a complete list of references is available from Ottawa Public Health, upon request. 

Income can be from the following sources, as applicable: Employment, federal and provincial tax credits and benefits, social assistance

Rental Market Report. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, October 2022.  Utilities may not be included. 

Ontario Nutritious Food Basket data 2023 for Ottawa Public Health – Includes family size adjustment factors.  

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 (3-12). 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 (6, 13, 14).   

Because of its harmful effects on health, household food insecurity places a large burden on the health care system (15). 

Food insecurity in Ottawa and Ontario 

Food insecurity continues to persist in Ottawa. Data from the 2022 Canadian Income Survey indicates that about 1 in 7 households (14.8%) in Ottawa is food insecure (16). 

Ontario food insecurity data from the 2022 Canadian Income Survey suggests that: 

  • Almost 1 in 5 individuals (19.2%) in Ontario is food insecure, amounting to 2.8 million Ontarians (1).
  • 1 in 4 children (24.6%) in Ontario live in a food-insecure household, amounting to close to 700 thousand 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% 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. Nearly half of food-insecure households (48.2%) in Ontario have employment as their main source of income (2). 

  • 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 (17).  

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

  • Households who rent their dwelling: 25.9% 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: 

  • 15.3%  of individuals living in food-insecure households identified as white (2)
  • 21.0%  of individuals living in food-insecure households identified as South Asian (2)
  • 22.0% of individuals living in food-insecure households identified as Southeast Asian (2)
  • 39.2%  of individuals living in food-insecure households identified as Black (2)
  • 27.0% of individuals living in food-insecure households identified as Arab (2)
  • 33.4%  of individuals living in food-insecure households identified as Indigenous (2) 

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 (18).

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. Share this information with peers, colleagues, partner agencies and your local members of parliament.

  4. 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 
  • 2-1-1 Ontario connects people to community and social resources, including food programs and services across Ontario. This includes cooking classes and facilities, food delivery service, food banks, free/low-cost meals, grow/pick your own food, programs where fresh food products can be purchased and more. 

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.


Ministry of Health

Healthy Food Donation Poster

Past reports


  1. Tarasuk V, Li T, Farfard St-Germain A-A. (2022). Household Food Insecurity in Canada 2021. PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research.
  2. PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research. (2023) New Data on Household Food Insecurity in 2022.
  3. 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
  4. 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. 
  5. 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
  6. 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. 
  7. 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.  
  8. Kirkpatrick and McIntyre & Potestio. (2010). Child hunger and long-term adverse consequences for health. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 164(8):754-62.  
  9. 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.   
  10. 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.  
  11. 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.  
  12. 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.
  13. 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. 
  14. 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
  15. 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. 
  16. Public Health Ontario. (2023). Household Food Insecurity: Estimates from the Canadian Income Survey: Ontario 2018-2020. 
  17. 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.  
  18. Ontario Dietitians in Public Health. (2020). Position Statement and Recommendations on Responses to Food Insecurity.  

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