Prioritizing mental health support to reduce hunger in communities

At Food Banks Canada, we know that food insecurity and mental health are strongly intertwined.

Our original research is proving that financial and food insecurity or physical health challenges can negatively affect mental health. If a person’s mental health is waning, they may be unable or less able to maintain a job and earn an income, which leads to worsening food insecurity.

Already, food banks across our national network are seeing an increase in these kinds of situations.

Food Banks Canada’s HungerCount 2022 report shows that 63 per cent of food bankers saw increasing mental health support as one of the top policy priorities to reduce hunger in their communities — compared to 50 per cent in 2019.

In their survey responses, food bankers repeatedly identified and emphasized the mental health challenges of their clients, supporting evidence that poor mental health is significantly correlated with food insecurity.

“In terms of their mental health, food insecurity can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental problems. This fragility may increase their needs in terms of food aid support.” 

— HungerCount survey respondent, Quebec

“Mental health supports are still lacking. People who are struggling with mental health issues and limited access to assistance find it very challenging to maintain employment.” 

— HungerCount survey respondent, Alberta


Food Banks Canada is working with the network of 4,750 food banks and community agencies to raise awareness and open discussions about social policies at all levels of government and their connection to food insecurity and mental health.

As the federal and provincial Ministers of Health move forward with shared federal health priorities, as outlined in the funding framework agreed to earlier this year, further work is required to develop new mental health measures that include a specific focus on the impact of low incomes on mental health and the acute needs of single working-age adults, people with disabilities, and people living with addictions.

We recommend that the federal government, in harmony with the provinces, starts working toward an adequate minimum income floor for all people in Canada.

As it stands, some form of an income floor exists for seniors and families with children. However, singles and people living with disabilities are struggling.

Efforts need to be made to strengthen the existing floors while introducing new ones. A disability benefit that is harmonized between governments, minimum income pilots, and more mental health supports are just some examples of what we need to get there.

Our affordable housing crisis also needs immediate and long-term solutions.

Food banks often mention housing issues alongside addiction and mental health problems as reported by clients.

As more people continue to struggle at unprecedented rates, affordable housing supplies are still eroding and are being built too slowly.

While work needs to be done to expand the development of new affordable housing, short term solutions like a national rent-assist program are needed.