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When working is not enough: food insecurity in the Canadian labour force

  • Lynn McIntyre (a1), Aaron C Bartoo (a1) and JC Herbert Emery (a2)
Abstract Objective

Food insecurity, lack of access to food due to financial constraints, is highly associated with poor health outcomes. Households dependent on social assistance are at increased risk of experiencing food insecurity, but food insecurity has also been reported in households reporting their main source of income from employment/wages (working households). The objective of the present study was to examine the correlates of food insecurity among households reliant on employment income.


Working households reporting food insecurity were studied through analysis of the Canadian Community Health Survey, 2007–2008, employing descriptive statistics and logistic regression. Food insecurity was measured using the Household Food Security Survey Module; all provinces participated.




Canadian households where main income was derived through labour force participation. Social assistance recipients were excluded.


For the period 2007–2008, 4 % of working households reported food insecurity. Canadian households reliant on primary earners with less education and lower incomes were significantly more likely to experience food insecurity; these differences were accentuated across some industry sectors. Residence in Quebec was protective. Working households experiencing food insecurity were more likely to include earners reporting multiples jobs and higher job stress. Visible minority workers with comparable education levels experienced higher rates of food insecurity than European-origin workers.


Reliance on employment income does not eliminate food insecurity for a significant proportion of households, and disproportionately so for households with racialized minority workers. Increases in work stress may increase the susceptibility to poor health outcomes of workers residing in households reporting food insecurity.

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