The importance of healthy food

Food insecurity is a serious public health problem in Canada because individuals’ health and wellbeing are tightly linked to their household food security status.

Healthy food is the fuel that allows us to live, work and play in our communities. No person should have to choose to go without it to prioritize other vital needs. With inflation and rising costs of living affecting all of us, those who live on or near the poverty line have been hit the hardest. Often vulnerable individuals are forced to pick whether they keep a roof over their heads and the lights on or whether they go to bed with a full stomach.

A lack of sufficient nutrients can have disastrous effects on a child’s development and impact their success in the classroom and the community. Families that struggle to put food on the table start an unfortunate pattern that begins to affect all aspects of life. Together, we must work towards a food secure community. One that doesn’t have more than 50,000 people accessing a food bank or food security program.

The Facts:

  • More than 60,000 people in Niagara struggle to afford healthy food.

  • 1 in 8 households don’t have enough income to cover shelter, bills, and food.

  • During the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 10 Canadians aged 12 and older reported experience of food insecurity in the previous 12 months.

What are we doing about it?

We know that eating healthy, culturally appropriate food, plays a significant role in our overall health and well-being. That’s why we are working to increase access to healthy food for everyone. Annually, food programs receive the largest percentage of our investments. We support programs and services that assist people in accessing and obtaining the nutritious food they need to live healthy, active lives and ultimately thrive. We often invest in programs such as community kitchens, school meal programs, food distribution initiatives and community gardens.

One of our special initiatives is the Niagara Community Garden Network, which supports over 1,000 community garden beds. These gardens provide improved access to food and allow for a social connectedness and greater physical and mental activity for local gardeners involved. We are advocating for long-term change and working with community partners through the Niagara Food Security Network to increase access to food for people in need in Niagara.

Chad, standing in front of a food programs doors, holding a large bin of food items.

Meet Chad

“I was raised in a small village and when I moved here I needed help. That’s what makes United Way so important—I realized it was something I could depend on. I didn’t have to sit around worrying, I could get the support I needed. I realized I needed help after the pandemic had been going on for a few months. This support means I don’t have to wonder when I’m going to eat, or what I’m going to eat. I receive groceries on Wednesdays, or even a gift card so I can do my own shopping, it makes me feel more stable. That help goes a long way when you don’t have the means to do it yourself. Now I also volunteer at the program so I can pay it forward. Whether I’m working or receiving help, I feel more connected and much happier. Thank you for your support, United Way.”