Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Adequacy of food spending is related to housing expenditures among lower-income Canadian households

Sharon I Kirkpatricka1 c1 and Valerie Tarasuka1

a1 Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, FitzGerald Building Room 326, 150 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 3E2


Objectives A number of studies have pointed to the pressure that housing costs can exert on the resources available for food. The objectives of the present study were to characterise the relationship between the proportion of income absorbed by housing and the adequacy of household food expenditures across the Canadian population and within income quintiles; and to elucidate the impact of receipt of a housing subsidy on adequacy of food expenditures among low-income tenant households.

Design The 2001 Survey of Household Spending, conducted by Statistics Canada, was a national cross-sectional survey that collected detailed information on expenditures on goods and services. The adequacy of food spending was assessed in relation to the cost of a basic nutritious diet.

Setting Canada.

Subjects The person with primary responsibility for financial maintenance from 15 535 households from all provinces and territories.

Results As the proportion of income allocated to housing increased, food spending adequacy declined significantly among households in the three lowest income quintiles. After accounting for household income and composition, receipt of a housing subsidy was associated with an improvement in adequacy of food spending among low-income tenant households, but still mean food spending fell below the cost of a basic nutritious diet even among subsidised households.

Conclusions This study indicates that housing costs compromise the food access of some low-income households and speaks to the need to re-examine policies related to housing affordability and income adequacy.

(Received October 09 2006)

(Accepted June 25 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Email