For many families in Brant, there isn't enough money left to buy basic healthy foods after paying for housing and other costs. This situation is referred to as household food insecurity, which is inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints. It ranges from concerns about running out of food before there is money to buy more, being unable to afford a balanced diet, to going hungry and missing meals. In order to make ends meet, households experiencing financial stress tend to cut back of the food budget in order to pay for housing and other essential expenses.
Household income is closely linked with food insecurity, with households with lower incomes being much more likely to experience food insecurity. Households receiving social assistance (i.e. Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program) are particularly at risk of food insecurity.
Other income-related factors can also affect levels of food insecurity:
- Low-income households spend a large amount of their income on housing costs, leaving little left for food and other expenses. Families in subsidized housing are shown to have lower odds of food insecurity than those on waiting lists for such housing. Subsidized housing can affect food insecurity rates because it frees up money in the budget for food.
- Precarious employment (including contract, temporary, casual, and part-time work) leads to an increased risk of food insecurity. This is because irregular hours, low wages, and limited medical benefits are more common along those who are precariously employed. Policies that reduce precarious employment should also reduce rates of food insecurity.
- Finally, millions of dollars of tax credits go unclaimed each year, with a lower rate of income tax filling among low-income households. Income tax clinics provide opportunity to increase funds available to low-income families without requiring change in governmental policy.