Impact Stories

Understanding food insecurity in British Columbia 

Food security and food insecurity. We often hear and see these terms, but what do they mean and how do they differ? Food security is reliable access to healthy food that results in positive long and short-term health and nutritional outcomes, while food insecurity is a lack of consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable foods that promote optimal health and well-being.   

We’ll take a deep dive into the intricate web of food insecurity in British Columbia: exploring its definition, the stark statistics that highlight its prevalence, and the multifaceted causes that contribute to this pervasive challenge. For more information on food security, click here.

What is the definition of food insecurity?

The definition of food insecurity encapsulates the inability to consistently access and afford nutritionally adequate and safe foods, which leads to compromised health and well-being. The repercussions of food insecurity go beyond hunger, affecting mental and physical health, educational attainment, and overall community resilience. Food insecurity is a nuanced challenge that extends far beyond the simple absence of food.

What is food insecurity? 

To understand the gravity of what is food insecurity in British Columbia, we must delve into the latest statistics. Recent studies indicate that a staggering 17% of British Columbians face food insecurity, underscoring the urgency of addressing this issue. PROOF, an interdisciplinary research program at the University of Toronto, and the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control provide detailed insights into the current landscape, offering a comprehensive understanding of the challenges individuals and families are grappling with daily. 

Beyond numbers, personal stories illustrate the human impact of food insecurity. Families must make agonizing choices between paying for housing, healthcare, or putting food on the table. The emotional toll is immeasurable, highlighting the need for urgent and comprehensive solutions.

Causes of food insecurity

Food insecurity doesn’t arise in isolation but rather is a consequence of intertwined social, economic, and systemic issues. Among the key causes of food insecurity are: 

  • Economic challenges: Low wages, precarious employment, and rising living costs create financial instability, making it difficult for families to afford nutritious food consistently. 
  • Unemployment: Job loss or underemployment can plunge individuals and families into financial turmoil, making it challenging to meet basic needs, including access to an adequate food supply. 
  • Lack of social support: Inadequate social support systems can exacerbate food insecurity.  
  • Food systems challenges: Lack of supply diversity in BC’s wholesale and retail sector, inefficient distribution networks, logistical challenges especially in rural and remote regions. 
  • Systemic barriers to food access: Racial inequity and demographic and cultural inequities 

The battle against food insecurity is multifaceted and demands a sustained and collective effort. At United Way British Columbia, our commitment is unwavering as we work toward a future where all British Columbians have access to nutritious and affordable food. Join us in this critical mission and stay tuned for more updates as we navigate this complex landscape together. In unity, we can create lasting change and build a brighter, healthier future for the people in our communities.