Food for Thought Blog

Food Insecurity Expected to Remain High into 2021

January 22nd, 2021Awareness, COVID-19, Media Releases

Hunger can happen to anyone, anywhere at any time. And if the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis has shown us anything, it’s that circumstances can change quickly, putting people in situations they never imagined.

Over the last few years, the need for emergency food assistance has remained consistent in Waterloo Region. However, the reality is, in 2020 food insecurity reached new levels both in our community and around the world.

People who have never needed help before found themselves accessing emergency food assistance programs and supports for the very first time.

Last year thousands of people in our community – of varying ages, income levels, and demographics – struggled to buy the basic necessities such as food, and visited one of the 100+ community programs and agency partners operating in Waterloo Region (which includes: Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and the Townships).

In December 2020, 154 new households accessed food assistance, bringing the annual number to 2,634 new households.

Since March 2020:

  • 75,894 emergency food hampers have been distributed to people in need.
  • 3,461,588 pounds of fresh, frozen, and non-perishable food has been acquired, coordinated, and distributed to the Community Food Assistance Network; a 21% increase compared to the same time last year.

COVID-19 has contributed to these increases, but it’s not the only reason. Other factors – such as the rising cost of food prices, widening gaps in social safety nets and Waterloo Region’s high cost of living – continue to play a role in someone’s ability to afford food and other basic necessities.

According to the 11th edition of Canada’s Food Price Report, the average family of four can expect to spend almost $14,000 on food this year; an additional $695 compared to last year. This increase means families and individuals with less will face significant challenges in 2021. The annual report also forecasts that shoppers can expect an overall food price increase between 3 to 5%, with the most notable increases predicated for: meat and vegetables at 4.5 to 6.5% and bakery at 3.5 to 5%.

Consider for a moment how the recently revised Canada’s Food Guide heavily encourages people to include more meat and vegetables to their diets. These increases create an unavoidable roadblock for accessing healthy, nutritious and affordable food.

Need Shifts as Pandemic Lingers

While we did not see a drastic or significant need for emergency hampers in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have now started to see a shift.

As we navigate the stay home order and second state-of-emergency, and people continue to face challenges such as unexpected job loss, illness, rising food costs, and government supports, we are seeing a 9% increase in the need for emergency food hampers compared to the same time in 2019.


Hampers Distributed

2020 91,529
2019 83,998

Together, in collaboration with many corporate and community partners, we are preparing for the future and continuing to evolve to meet the community’s changing needs during COVID-19 and beyond.

To learn more about how you can get involved and make a difference visit: