The percentage of Prince Edward Island homes living without enough food is growing, according to Statistics Canada's 2013 Canadian Community Health Survey.

Valarie Tarasuk

Valerie Tarasuk is still working out how many children on P.E.I. are suffering from food insecurity. (CBC)

University of Toronto nutritional sciences professor Valerie Tarasuk told CBC News the survey shows the number of P.E.I. homes facing food insecurity increased by half a percentage point from 2012 to 2013, bringing the number to just under 17 per cent.

While that increase is small, it is part of a regular trend going back to 2005.

"In terms of that half-a-percentage point, you wouldn't want to be a part of it," said Tarasuk.

"More concerning for me is the trend that with each year we're charting a slightly higher number. And, I mean, the difference between 2005 and 2013 is quite marked at four per cent."

Food insecurity has been on a slow climb from 13 per cent in 2005, she said.

Guaranteed income suggested

Tarasuk has not published the food insecurity numbers from the survey yet, and is still analyzing how many Island children are living in homes that are food insecure.

'We've got such a high density of people in the workforce but still struggling to feed themselves.' - Valerie Tarasuk

Tarasuk said given that more than half the Islanders facing food insecurity are working, she believes implementing a guaranteed basic income would be a good possible solution.

Raising the minimum wage will not have that much of an impact, she said, because many Islanders are working part-time or seasonally.

"Setting some kind of an income floor below which we do not allow people's incomes to fall, irrespective of whether they're on welfare or EI or in the workforce, I think that's a very good idea," said Tarasuk.

"Particularly in a place like Prince Edward Island where we've got such a high density of people in the workforce but still struggling to feed themselves."

The P.E.I. Working Group for a Livable Income has submitted a proposal to the P.E.I. government that would set the minimum income for an adult Islander at $18,000 and $8,000 for each child.

The working group people estimates a guaranteed income program would cost $150 million. Subtracting $32 million from scrapping social assistance means a net cost of $118-million, but Tarasuk argues there could be considerable health care savings from a healthier population.

Tarasuk said she is currently doing work in Ontario that suggests the health care costs of food insecurity are huge.

The P.E.I. Working Group hopes to get a meeting with government sometime in June after the sitting of the legislature.

For mobile device users: Is a guaranteed income a good idea for P.E.I.?