Nova Scotia rates of poverty, food insecurity in 2022 worst among all provinces

Click to play video: 'N.S. rates of poverty, food insecurity in 2022 worst among all provinces'
N.S. rates of poverty, food insecurity in 2022 worst among all provinces
WATCH: New data from Statistics Canada is raising alarms for Nova Scotia, where poverty and food insecurity is the highest in the country. Megan King reports. – Apr 30, 2024

New data from Statistics Canada show that Nova Scotia’s rates of poverty and food insecurity in 2022 were the highest of any province — and the head of the province’s largest network of food banks says things have only worsened since.

Some 28.9 per cent of Nova Scotia households were considered food insecure in 2022, meaning people had inadequate access to food due to financial constraints. Nationally, approximately 8.7 million people, or 22.9 per cent of the population, lived in households that reported some form of food insecurity.

Nick Jennery, executive director of Feed Nova Scotia, which distributes food to 140 food banks, said the situation in the province is even worse today. “We are continuing to see an escalation in demand,” he said.

Data from the Canadian Income Survey, which was released by StatCan on Friday, found that 7.3 per cent of Nova Scotia households were experiencing “severe” food insecurity, meaning people were reducing their eating or going days without food.

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Food insecurity was highest among young Nova Scotians, with 40.5 per cent of children under 18 recorded as being food insecure in 2022. The next highest risk group for food insecurity are those between 18 and 24 years old, at more than 37 per cent.

“These stats are tragic and disappointing,” Jennery said in an interview Tuesday. “Every day we see the impact of those numbers. We see lineups outside of food banks. We see people going to multiple food banks. We see food banks that just don’t have the capacity to handle this escalating trend.”

Click to play video: 'Those facing food insecurity, advocates react to Nova Scotia receiving an ‘F’ grade on poverty report'
Those facing food insecurity, advocates react to Nova Scotia receiving an ‘F’ grade on poverty report

Jennery said 2022 had been a “record year” in terms of demand at Feed Nova Scotia’s network of food banks — “but 2023 beat that by 27 per cent …. At what point does it get so bad that somebody says we ought to do something?”

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Data show that Nova Scotia’s poverty rate increased to 13.1 per cent in 2022 from 8.6 per cent a year earlier — also the highest rate among all provinces. This is well above the national average in 2022 of 9.9 per cent of people falling below the poverty threshold.

Statistics Canada uses a model called the Market Basket Measure to define poverty, which means that a family is considered to be living in poverty if they cannot afford a modest, basic standard of living which includes the costs of food, clothing and footwear, transportation, shelter and other expenses.

Jennery said the province has made moves to address poverty, noting that government recently indexed income assistance rates to inflation, but it needs to go further to substantially increase financial support to those who need it. “We need to stop the Band-Aid approach with this issue,” he said.

When asked about the data Wednesday, Department of Community Services spokesperson Christina Deveau said in an email, “We understand there are no quick fixes to the complex challenges people are facing.” Deveau said the department is working with communities, partners and families on a range of initiatives to support vulnerable Nova Scotians.

Sheri Lecker, executive director of Adsum House for Women and Children, said in a statement Monday the data confirms what the organization has been seeing in terms of community needs.

“Nova Scotia is doing the worst job providing the bare essentials for its citizens .… These statistics are from 2022 and we know that things have continued to deteriorate in this province,” Lecker said.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2024.

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