Food Insecurity


Healthy eating and food security are dependent on being able to find and purchase healthy food. The term ‘food security’ has been used in different ways. In North America, food security has been defined as “a situation in which all community residents can obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes self-reliance and social justice”.1 More and more, food has become the means to promote health, build strong and diverse communities, protect the environment and strengthen the economy.2.3

Almost two decades ago, the Food and Agriculture Organization declared food security exists “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”, and commented that poverty is a major cause of food insecurity, and elimination of poverty is critical to improving access to food.4 The term ‘food insecurity’ is most often used in the context of individuals and households whose income is not enough to pay for basic needs. Food insecurity has been defined as "the inability to acquire or consume an adequate diet quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so”5. Thus, the terms ‘food insecurity’ and ‘food security’ are used in different contexts, with varied meaning, and may not simply be the opposite of the other term.

Canada does not have a national food policy. Many organizations and citizens are advocating for food and nutrition and agriculture strategies that will serve the needs of Canadians, sustaining health, incomes and the ability to provide food in the future. Dietitians of Canada is working with other organizations to explore and support agendas to move forward in healthy policy directions.

Positions and Actions:

There has been significant activity in recent years to promote healthy eating and build food security. This includes government, community and private sector initiatives, often working in partnership.

It is the position of Dietitians of Canada that that food security is a basic right for all Canadians. Dietitians understand the negative effects of food insecurity on health at a personal level. In the bigger picture of Canada's food supply and the system that delivers this supply from field to fork, dietitians also advocate for national food policy, with a strategy that will ensure all aspects of food security at the community, regional and national levels.

Click here for Positions and Actions on:




  1. Hamm, M, Bellows, A (2003). Community Food Security: Background and Future Directions. J Nutr Educ Behav 35(1): 37-43.
  2. Toronto Public Health (2010). Food Connections: Toward a Healthy and Sustainable Food System for Toronto.
  3. Dietitians of Canada (2012). Healthy Eating and Food Security: Promising Strategies. A Discussion Paper.
  4. Food and Agriculture Organization (1996). Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action, Rome, Italy. Available at www.fao.org/docrep/003/w3613e/w3613e00.htm
  5. Davis B, Tarasuk V (1994). Hunger in Canada. Agriculture and Human Values 11(4):50-57.


Updated September 6, 2016