Poverty Snapshot

Taking Decisive Action

18 January 2022

Collage with groceries and a city of Calgary skyline

Poverty affects every aspect of your life, not only the ability to meet your basic needs — your health, relationships, how you’re impacted by climate change, even how safe you are while you walk through your neighbourhood.

Understanding poverty

We do the poverty snapshot to understand how people experience poverty and what policy makers can do to help. Last year’s report focused on the effects of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. This year, the gap in information in a changing context was something we grappled with. The five-year census will be released in February 2022, and the Income Survey data — where our poverty rates come from — is always two years behind. But in 2021, we wanted to know more, so we looked to additional sources to give us a clearer picture of where we are, where we’re headed, and how we can help build a just recovery.

From that research, we learned that affordable housing waitlists are long and housing is getting more expensive. We learned that food bank use is at an all time high and food prices are rising at the highest rate in nearly 20 years. We also learned that a lot of people are receiving effective government supports and coming out of poverty. So, who is falling through the cracks, what solutions will prevent or seal the cracks, and how can we better address the root causes of poverty?


Up 44%

Food Bank use from 2019


Monthly extra money required for an average family's food


Households in need of afforadable housing

Building a just recovery

The last two years have been difficult with challenges that affected everyone but especially the most vulnerable. It is too soon to tell what this will mean long term, but we know that mental health and relationships have suffered and that many people are struggling to meet basic needs. The 2021 Poverty Snapshot revealed some answers, but also plenty of questions. Are we measuring poverty accurately? Who is falling through the cracks? How do we make sure benefits don’t keep people in poverty? We don’t know enough about people experiencing the deepest level of poverty, and though poverty seems to be decreasing, affordable housing waitlists are getting longer, and food bank use is increasing. Poverty is costly to health, future generations, and the very fabric of our communities. To address it effectively, we need a clear picture of poverty in our city, political will to make necessary changes, and heightened recognition that poverty initiatives benefit everyone.


  • Provide income supports that reduce poverty

  • Allocate sufficient funds in the 2022 Provincial budget for the Stronger Foundations Affordable Housing Strategy

  • Accelerate existing provincial targets for affordable housing

  • Reduce over-representation of Indigenous people with core housing needs

  • Prioritize neighbourhood investments and zoning changes based on an equity framework at the City of Calgary, to support affordable lifestyles

Want to learn more?

Download the full report to learn more about the data, dive deeper into topics, our references, and more.