Briefing Note: Reducing Poverty and Increasing Food Security in the Comox Valley

Briefing Note: Reducing Poverty and Increasing Food Security in the Comox Valley



Produced by: Comox Valley Social Planning Society (


Prepared for: Federal candidates in North Island – Powell River and Courtenay-Alberni ridings


Purpose: Poverty and household food insecurity are rising in the Comox Valley and there is a need for our local Members of Parliament to advocate for policies to reduce poverty and increase household food security.


Background: Poverty is related to employment & income and has a direct impact on the health & wellbeing of individuals and communities. However, poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood. It results in hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making (1). In 2017, 2018 and 2019 the Social Planning Society calculated a Living Wage for Families for the Comox Valley to meet basic needs for a family of four (2 parents working and 2 children 4 and 7). This living wage needs to be seen in the context of two parent families and cannot be generalized to single people, lone parent families, people with disabilities or seniors. The Social Planning Society will soon be embarking on a campaign to encourage local employers to become certified as living wage employers.


Poverty-related food insecurity, defined as “the inadequate access to food due to financial constraints” (2), is an urgent public health challenge in Canada. Four million Canadians, including 1.15 million children, equal to one in eight households and one in six children are food insecure (3). Household food insecurity is more prevalent in households with more children under 18 and affects single mothers six times as much as households with two parents (4). Recognizing this link between poverty and food insecurity, the federal government released their Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2018 (5). The Strategy named food insecurity as one of the key indicators to track progress on poverty and introduced the Market Basket Measure, which is the cost of a basket of goods and services used by Canadian families as the first measure of Canada’s Official Poverty Line.


In addition to working towards household food security for all of Canada, a community food security approach which includes, food sovereignty, food systems education and Indigenous food sovereignty, is needed in policy development. According to La Via Campesina, “Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems” (6). Developing federal policy that addresses both household food security and a systems food sovereignty approach, including Indigenous food sovereignty, is needed to address food security.


  • Overall poverty rate is 15.6 % with Hornby Island (28.3%) and Denman (24.2%) the highest and Comox (11.6 %) the lowest. (7)
  • Overall poverty rate for children 0-17 in 2015 was 22.5% with the highest rates on Denman (55.2%) and Hornby (42.7%) Islands (7).
  • 21% of households are lone parent families (xi) and the child poverty rate (0 – 17 years) in a lone parent family is 55%. (7)
  • Child poverty rate for children under 5 years old was 25.2% in 2016, an increase of 1.8% from the 2011(8).
  • Lone parent family median income in 2016 was $43,800 lower than provincial or Island Health median incomes, and significantly lower than that of two parent families (7).
  • 3% of seniors are considered to be low income, higher than the percentage across the Vancouver Island Health Authority region (7).


  • Overall poverty rate among seniors in 2015 was 8.5% with Cumberland the highest (15.8%) and Comox the lowest (6%) (7)
  • 29% of the 117 people identified as homeless in 2018 Point in Time Count were over 55, up significantly from 2016 (9)
  • 31% of food bank users are children (10)
  • Market Basket Measure or cost to feed a family of 4 in 2015 was $985 per month (7)
  • The 2019 Living Wage for Families is $15.97 per hour, down from $16.59 in 2018. This reduction is a result of the province’s recent investments in childcare. Otherwise the living wage would have increased to $20.75 per hour. (11)


Recommendations (12):

Effective, evidence-based policy responses are possible, but national leadership is needed to spearhead further action and we recommend:

  1. Set a target to eliminate food insecurity in Canada by 2030, in accordance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and monitor progress towards this target annually.
  2. Increase the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) for low-income families and the Canada Workers Benefit (CWB) for low-income workers.
  3. Make all tax credits refundable: Most tax credits are non-refundable and provide tax breaks for higher income earners rather than a refund, and therefore many low- income earners never have access to them. For example, the Disability Tax Credit, meant to support people with severe and prolonged disabilities, provides higher income earners with a tax break but does not help low-income people with disabilities.
  4. Partner with Provincial Governments to institute basic income pilots across Canada: Basic income is a program that would provide a minimum amount of money to anyone who fell below a certain level. In addition to tackling poverty and fostering basic human dignity, basic income pilot projects have shown remarkable health and educational improvements.


Questions (12):

  1. Given the link between poverty and food insecurity, what is your party’s perspective and approach to poverty reduction, including tax reform and a guaranteed annual income?
  2. More than 4 million Canadians are food insecure. If elected what would you do to ensure all Canadians can access healthy, culturally appropriate food?
  3. The March 2019 Federal Budget included the first ever commitment to a National School Food Program – If elected will you support, a cost-shared universal school food program that provides healthy and locally produced food?



  1. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  2. (2016). Children in Food Insecure Households
  3. Tarasuk, V, Mitchell, A, Dachner, N. (2014). Household food insecurity in Canada, 2012.
  4. PROOF & FSC. (2015). National Food Policy Briefing Note.
  5. Employment and Social Development Canada. (2018). Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy.
  6. Eat, Think, Vote Food Insecurity Backgrounder (2019)
  7. CV Vital signs Report (2018) –
  8. Comox Valley Early Years Collaborative 25×25 Project Final Report (2019)
  9. CV Coalition to End Homelessness Point in Time Count (2018) –
  10. Food Security, Poverty, Housing and the Local Food System (2019)
  11. Living Wage for Families –
  12. Adapted from Eat, Think, Vote resources –


Contact: Elizabeth Shannon, Chair, Comox Valley Social Planning Society


Endorsed by: Comox Valley Community Health Network and Lush Valley Food Action Society



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