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The Connection Between Race, Mental Health, and Food Insecurity

March 1, 2021

Monday, March 1, marked the second annual Black Mental Health day in Toronto. This important day raises awareness about the impacts of anti-Black racism on mental health in our city. However, as TAIBU Community Health Centre notes, “After generations of anti-Black racism, it’s still a year-round problem for Black Torontonians. An annual day to confront its effects on mental health in Black communities is only a first step.”

The stress associated with experiencing anti-Black racism can lead to mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Additionally, for Black communities in Toronto, mental illnesses are often overlooked, misdiagnosed, and under-treated.

Mental health and food insecurity are closely linked. One in three people hospitalized for mental health related conditions are food insecure. As a result of the impacts of anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination, Black households in Canada are 3.56 times more likely to be food-insecure than White households in Canada, according to a study by FoodShare and PROOF.

During COVID-19, the connection between race, mental health, and food insecurity has been even more pronounced. A recent Statistics Canada report found that individuals in households that experience severe food insecurity were more than seven times more likely to report moderate or severe anxiety during the pandemic, compared to food secure households.

Black and racialized Torontonians have COVID-19 infection rates seven times higher than white residents due to social and economic disadvantages. In terms pandemic job loss, Black and Indigenous people had the highest unemployment rates at 13%, compared to 7.4% of White Canadians between August and December 2020.

The deep inequities experienced by Black communities in Canada existed long before COVID-19, but the pandemic has exacerbated and deepened these disparities. To better understand how anti-Black racism impacts mental health and food insecurity and what actions and transformations are needed to dismantle this oppression, we encourage you to check out the following resources:

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