In this series of articles I will present a portrait of Alberta’s performance with respect to the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The UN SDG #2 is to achieve zero hunger. On an international level the UN’s goal is to: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. Alberta is not a province which experiences hunger or malnutrition as some developing countries.
One of the sub-goals relevant to Alberta that By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.
According to provincial food security statistics, an estimated 11.5% of Albertans (the lowest rate in Canada) experience have inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints, the lowest in Canada.
There are still too many people using food banks in Alberta despite having one of the highest average household income levels in Canada. According to the Alberta Food Bank Association food bank usage across all 84 provincial food banks increased with usage doubling in the past two years (since 2014). In Alberta, food bank usage climbed by 18 percent to a record number of clients in 2016 reaching 79,293 people who accessed Alberta’s food banks in March, 2016. That is the largest number of people to visit food banks in this province in the 35- year history of food banks.It has been eight years since the provincial low point of 33,837 individuals served in 2008.
Roughly 25% of Albertans who accessed a hamper program in 2016 were employed.
Food insecurity has a lot to do with financial constraints: not earning a sufficient income to pay for affordable housing and food. As per the first article, roughly 32% of Albertans were not earning a living wage (about $15/hour) in 2014. This number has likely increased over the past 3 years with a sluggish economy. Yet, median household income in Alberta has grown 21.6% between 2005 and 2015, reaching $93,835 median household income, according to the 2016 Census by Statistics Canada. Despite having the highest household income amongst the major provinces, too many Albertans do not earn a living wage, that is, the amount of income a family needs to bring home based on the actual costs of living in a specific community Alberta. In 2015, living wages are estimated at $18.15 per hour in Calgary, $16.31 per hour in Edmonton and $13.65 per hour in Medicine Hat.
The Canadian Index of Well-being suggests a number of other indicators that can be used to measure Canada’s (and provincial) progress towards Goal #2 to End Hunger (see diagram).
Alberta’s Ecological Footprint was calculated in 2011 by my associate Jeff Wilson and I for Alberta Environment showing that the average Albertans consumed about 8.8 hectares of land per person to sustain our lifestyles in 2005. The Ecological Footprint is a measure of how much land and sea space each person needs to support their current economic life including land for food, energy, transportation, housing, and other services (see following diagram). The Ecological Footprint is calculated based on annual household expenditures on food, shelter, transportation, energy (heating, electricity), clothing, and other goods and services. As a rule, the Ecological Footprint goes up with rising expenditures and is generally correlated with household income; poorer households tend to have a relatively smaller Ecological Footprint requiring less land to meet their needs.