The novel coronavirus has ravaged the national economy and more Canadians are going hungry as a result, Statistics Canada announced Wednesday.
Food insecurity is sharply higher than the last time StatCan looked at the issue, in 2017-18. At that time, about 10 per cent of Canadians said they couldn’t afford to eat properly; in the most recent survey, done in May, that had risen to 14.8 per cent.
As many sectors of the economy shut down starting in March, such as food services and travel, unemployment shot up with a speed not seen in recent memory.
The survey showed a clear connection between the coronavirus’s damage to the economy and hunger. Among Canadians who weren’t at work because of the virus due to business closure or layoffs, almost three in 10 are going hungry, StatCan said.
Among households with children, between nine and 13 per cent said that:
- Food didn’t last and there was no money to get more, sometimes or often
- They couldn’t afford balanced meals, sometimes or often
- Adults in the household skipped or cut the size of meals
- They personally were hungry but didn’t eat because they couldn’t afford food
Prices of many food staples like carrots, potatoes, pasta, canned soup and canned tomatoes have risen significantly since January. Prices of meat, flour, rice and canned tuna are up since May of last year.
Like those in many other countries, Canada’s food system was severely disrupted as almost all food consumption outside the home disappeared in March. For example, Canadians now consume almost no French fries, leaving farmers with large stocks of unsold potatoes.
A shortage of migrant farmworkers linked to coronavirus is disrupting vegetable and seafood production.
In May, unemployment hit 13.7 per cent, breaking a record set in 1982.
Three million jobs were lost over March and April, and about 2.5 million more had their hours slashed.
While the employment picture improved slightly in May compared to March and April, the Parliamentary Budget Office has warned that unemployment could hit 15 per cent by the end of the year.
StatCan noted that groups known to be hard-hit by the coronavirus recession, such as renters and those that can’t work from home, were underrepresented in the survey, so the situation is likely worse than the data shows.
With files from the Canadian Press