Methodology & Glossary


Download Food Banks Canada’s 2024 Poverty Report Card Methodology here.


This is the official measure of poverty in Canada, as set in Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy. It is based on the annual cost of a typical ‘basket’ of good and services that a reference Canadian family (defined as two adults and two children) need to participate in society, representing a modest, basic standard of living. This includes food, clothing transportation and shelter.

The cost of this basket of goods is called the Market Basket Measure (MBM). The MBM has been priced for 53 different geographic areas to reflect the potential differences in the cost of goods across different communities. The Northern Market Basket Measure (MBM-N) has been calculated separately for the Northwest Territories and the Yukon to take into account the higher cost of living in the north.

According to Stats Canada: the income measure used to compare against the MBM thresholds is the disposal income for the MBM. When the disposable income for the MBM of an economic family member or a person not in economic family falls below the threshold applicable to the person, the person is considered to be in low income according to MBM.

Visit Stat Canada for more information on the Market Basket Measure.

This is an indicator that determines how well housing needs are being met. It considers if a household can afford suitable, adequate, and affordable housing in their community. A household is considered to be in Core Housing Need when it doesn’t meet these standards.

Housing is considered adequate when it isn’t in need of major repairs, like defective plumbing or electrical wiring or structural damage. Housing is considered suitable when there are enough bedrooms for the make-up of the household. Housing is considered affordable when it costs less than 30% of before-tax household income.

Visit CMHC for more information on Core Housing.

This refers to the average amount households spend on fixed costs other than housing, including internet, transport, groceries and utilities. Costs are considered fixed when they don’t change very much in cost month to month.
Government support, also called benefits, refer to a range of financial assistance provided by the Federal Government to individuals or households. Support eligibility is determined by characteristics, including age, employment status or whether the household includes children.

Government supports include Employment Insurance, child benefit, pensions, and benefits for housing, student aid, family, disability, among others.

Visit the Government of Canada website for more information on government support..

A Material Deprivation Index is a way to measure poverty through the lens of deprivation. Unlike other measures of poverty which are based on income, the MDI looks at the goods and activities a household with an acceptable, above poverty, standard of living would be expected to have in a wealthy country like Canada. The MDI is a complimentary tool that could be used in conjunction with the MBM, or other income-based measures of poverty such as the Low-Income Measure.

A household’s ability to afford a decent standard of living is influenced by a range of factors, like debt and availability of support. As the MDI is more sensitive than the MBM to circumstances that impact households purchasing power, this type of indicator has been found to be well suited to understand how factors like rapid inflation and rising energy costs impact household finances. Households that are unable to afford several of items on this list are considered to be materially deprived, which indicates they are more likely to live in poverty.

Social Assistance refer to the range of financial assistance provided by Provincial or Territory Governments to individuals or households. The type of social assistance available varies by province and territory. Support eligibility is determined by characteristics, which may include age, employment status, whether a person has a disability, or whether a household includes children. Social assistance is typically defined as income of last resort, intended for those who have no other means of financial support, and eligibility is determined based on a needs test.

Visit provincial or territory government websites for more information on the specific social assistance available.

This measures the number of unemployed persons, as expressed as a percentage of the total labour force. This rate is calculated monthly by Stats Canada through the Labour Force Survey.

Visit Stats Canada for more information on the unemployment rate.

A household is considered food insecure when it experiences inadequate or insecure access to sufficient quantities of food due to financial constraints. Household food insecurity is tracked by Stats Canada, which allows for monitoring of this rate over time.

Visit Stats Canada for more information on food insecurity.