How temperature extremes are forcing many Canadians to cut back on basic necessities

Winter can be an extremely difficult season for Canadian households that are struggling to make ends meet amid the cost-of-living crisis.

As temperatures begin to drop, cold weather events inevitably affect household energy consumption and force many people to make the difficult decision between heating their homes, feeding themselves, and feeding their children.

According to new data from Statistics Canada, in 2023, about one in seven Canadian households (15%) had to reduce or forgo expenses for basic necessities, such as food, for at least one month in the past 12 months in order to pay an energy bill. Almost 8 per cent of households reported doing this for at least three months.

Overall, one in seven Canadian households cut back on basic needs to pay their energy bill.

This is especially alarming considering the escalating trend in food bank usage, which is another way to assess a population’s standard of living.

Food Banks Canada’s HungerCount 2023 report shows the devastating impact of rapid inflation and inadequate social supports on poverty, food insecurity and hunger in Canada, with food banks across the country experiencing overwhelming demand.

In 2023, the national research study of food banks and other food programs in Canada found there were almost two million visits in the month of March alone, representing the highest level of food bank use ever recorded.

“Seniors are having trouble with home heating and many times have to choose between food and heating.”

HungerCount survey respondent, Nova Scotia

“Many adult clients stating that they generally have just one meal a day.”

HungerCount survey respondent, Ontario

“Food costs have increased dramatically along with living expenses (rent, utilities, etc.). Living in the North was already difficult. This has just put a greater need on our food bank.”

HungerCount survey respondent, NWT

With the cold weather holidays here, food banks are being stretched to their limits — just as individuals and families need them more than ever.

Please give what you can to help Canada’s food banks stay stocked and ready to help everyone who needs them in the weeks to come.