We used focus groups to learn the range of issues threatening food security of low income residents in our community. Five major themes emerged from the discussions: literacy, money, time, mental health and self-esteem, suggesting several approaches that could help ensure food security: 1) education, 2) sharing of resources, 3) coalition building, and 4) advocacy. Education programs have to be practical, allowing for demonstrations and hands-on learning while emphasizing skill building and problem solving. Incorporating a social aspect into learning may compensate for the social isolation and would capitalize on the impressive mutual support we witnessed. Strategies based on self-help and peer assistance may counteract low self-esteem and overcome suspicion of health professionals. A community-wide effort is needed to address the factors contributing to food insecurity. We envision the formation of a coalition of professionals, agencies, and low income people to develop a comprehensive strategy for achieving food security.
A study of food insecurity and nutritional adequacy was conducted with a sample of 153 women in families receiving emergency food assistance in Toronto, Canada. Contemporaneous data on dietary intake and household food security over the past 30 d were available for 145 of the women. Analyses of these data revealed that women who reported hunger in their households during the past 30 d also reported systematically lower intakes of energy and a number of nutrients. The effect of household-level hunger on intake persisted even when other economic, socio-cultural, and behavioral influences on reported dietary intake were considered. Estimated prevalences of inadequacy in excess of 15% were noted for Vitamin A, folate, iron, and magnesium in this sample, suggesting that the low levels of intake associated with severe household food insecurity are in a range that could put women at risk of nutrient deficiencies.
To measure and describe the prevalence and severity of household food insecurity in a remote on-reserve First Nations community using the Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM) and to evaluate the perceived relevance of the HFSSM for this population.
Household food security status was determined from the eighteen-item HFSSM following the classifications developed by Health Canada for the Canadian Community Health Survey, Cycle 2·2 Nutrition. One adult from each household in the community was invited to complete the HFSSM and to comment on its relevance as a tool to measure food security for First Nations communities.
Sub-Arctic Ontario, Canada.
Households (n 64).
Seventy per cent of households were food insecure, 17% severely and 53% moderately. The prevalence of food insecurity in households with children was 76%. Among respondents from homes rated as having severe food insecurity, all (100 %) reported worrying that food would run out, times when food didn't last and there wasn't money to buy more, and times when they couldn't afford to eat balanced meals. The majority of respondents felt the HFSSM did not capture an accurate picture of food security for their situation. Aspects missing from the HFSSM included the high cost of market food and the incorporation of traditional food practices.
A high prevalence of household food insecurity was reported in this community. On-reserve remote First Nations communities may be more susceptible to food insecurity than off-reserve Aboriginal populations. Initiatives that promote food security for this vulnerable population are needed.
This study investigated food intake patterns and contextual factors related to household food insecurity with hunger among a sample of 153 women in families seeking charitable food assistance in Toronto. Women in households characterized by food insecurity with severe or moderate hunger over the past 30 d (as assessed by the Food Security Module) reported lower intakes of vegetables and fruit, and meat and alternatives than those in households with no hunger evident. Women were more likely to report household food insecurity with hunger over the past 12 mo and 30 d if they also reported longstanding health problems or activity limitations, or if they were socially isolated. The circumstances that women identified as precipitating acute food shortages in their households included chronically inadequate incomes; the need to meet additional, unusual expenditures; and the need to pay for other services or accumulated debts. Women who reported delaying payments of bills, giving up services, selling or pawning possessions, or sending children elsewhere for a meal when threatened with acute food shortages were more likely to report household food insecurity with hunger. These findings suggest that expenditures on other goods and services were sometimes foregone to free up money for food, but the reverse was also true. Household food insecurity appears inextricably linked to financial insecurity.
Food insecurity in older adults is influenced by financial constraints, functional disability, and isolation. Twenty-eight social- and community-service providers participated in four focus groups to report (a) perceptions and experiences with food insecurity in their older clients, (b) beliefs about their potential role(s) in promoting food security, and (c) opinions about constraints that influenced these roles. A constant comparison analysis identified key themes. The formal caregivers reported six roles for improving food security: (a) monitoring, (b) coordination, and (c) promoting services, (d) education, (e) advocacy, and (f) providing a social environment. The final theme summarizes these roles as "the need for personalization of service". Social and community service providers are involved in roles that can promote the health of older adults by addressing their food insecurity. Social service providers need to be acknowledged and supported in this health promotion role.
Although the sociodemographic characteristics of food-insecure households have been well documented, there has been little examination of neighbourhood characteristics in relation to this problem. In the present study we examined the association between household food security and neighbourhood features including geographic food access and perceived neighbourhood social capital.
Cross-sectional survey and mapping of discount supermarkets and community food programmes.
Twelve high-poverty neighbourhoods in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Respondents from 484 low-income families who had children and who lived in rental accommodations.
Food insecurity was pervasive, affecting two-thirds of families with about a quarter categorized as severely food insecure, indicative of food deprivation. Food insecurity was associated with household factors including income and income source. However, food security did not appear to be mitigated by proximity to food retail or community food programmes, and high rates of food insecurity were observed in neighbourhoods with good geographic food access. While low perceived neighbourhood social capital was associated with higher odds of food insecurity, this effect did not persist once we accounted for household sociodemographic factors.
Our findings raise questions about the extent to which neighbourhood-level interventions to improve factors such as food access or social cohesion can mitigate problems of food insecurity that are rooted in resource constraints. In contrast, the results reinforce the importance of household-level characteristics and highlight the need for interventions to address the financial constraints that underlie problems of food insecurity.
In Canada, unique food security challenges are being faced by Aboriginal people living in remote-northern communities due to the impacts of climate change on subsistence harvesting. This study used traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) to investigate whether there was a temporal relationship between extreme climatic events in the summer of 2005, and fish die-offs in the Albany River, northern Ontario, Canada. Also, TEK was utilized to examine a potential shift in subsistence fish species distribution due to climate change.
To investigate whether there was a temporal relationship between the fish die-offs of July 2005 (as identified by TEK) and an extreme climatic event, temperature and daily precipitation data for Moosonee weather station were utilized. To determine if there was an increasing trend in mean maximal summer temperatures with year, temperature data were examined, using regression analysis. Present-day fish distributions were determined using unpublished TEK data collated from previous studies and purposive, semi-directive interviews with elders and experienced bushman.
Fish die-offs in 2005 occurred during the time period 11-18 July, as reported by participants. Recorded air-temperature maxima of the two July 2005 heat waves delineate exactly the time period of fish die-offs. Two heat waves occurring during the same summer season and so close together has never before been recorded for this region. A highly significant (p
Food insecurity is a serious public health issue for Aboriginal people (First Nations [FN], Métis, and Inuit) living in Canada. Food security challenges faced by FN people are unique, especially for those living in remote and isolated communities. Conceptualizations of food insecurity by FN people are poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of food insecurity by FN adults living in a remote, on-reserve community in northern Ontario known to have a high prevalence of moderate to severe food insecurity.
A trained community research assistant conducted semi-directed interviews, and one adult from each household in the community was invited to participate. Questions addressed traditional food, coping strategies, and suggestions to improve community food security and were informed by the literature and a community advisory committee. Thematic data analyses were carried out and followed an inductive, data-driven approach.
Fifty-one individuals participated, representing 67% of eligible households. The thematic analysis revealed that food sharing, especially with family, was regarded as one of the most significant ways to adapt to food shortages. The majority of participants reported consuming traditional food (wild meats) and suggested that hunting, preserving and storing traditional food has remained very important. However, numerous barriers to traditional food acquisition were mentioned. Other coping strategies included dietary change, rationing and changing food purchasing patterns. In order to improve access to healthy foods, improving income and food affordability, building community capacity and engagement, and community-level initiatives were suggested.
Findings point to the continued importance of traditional food acquisition and food sharing, as well as community solutions for food systems change. These data highlight that traditional and store-bought food are both part of the strategies and solutions participants suggested for coping with food insecurity. Public health policies to improve food security for FN populations are urgently needed.
Factors underlying food-purchasing decisions were examined among a sample of low-income Toronto families.
A cross-sectional survey was completed among 485 families residing in high-poverty Toronto neighbourhoods. Food-security status was assessed using the Household Food Security Survey Module. Open-ended questions were included to examine respondents' food selection and management practices and their purchasing decisions for six indicator foods. Logistic regression was used to examine associations between factors influencing food-purchasing decisions, perceived food adequacy, and severity of food insecurity.
Twenty-two percent of families had been severely food insecure in the past 30 days. Respondents engaged in thrifty food shopping practices, such as frequenting discount supermarkets and budgeting carefully. Price was the most salient factor influencing food-purchasing decisions; the likelihood that families would report this factor increased with deteriorating food security. Preference, quality, and health considerations also guided food-purchasing decisions, but generally to a lesser extent as food insecurity increased. Household food supplies reflected constraints on food purchasing, and they diminished with increasing food insecurity.
Despite their resourcefulness, low-income families struggle to feed their families. Dietitians have an important role to play as advocates for adequate income supports to promote food security and nutritional health.
In Canada, food insecurity exists among Aboriginal (Inuit, Metis and First Nations) people living in remote northern communities, in part, because of their reliance on the industrialized, import-based food system. Local food production as a substitute to imports would be an adaptive response, but enhancement of food security via food localization requires reflection on previous failings of conventional agricultural strategies so that informed decisions can be made. In light of potential reintroduction of local food production in remote First Nations communities, we investigated the cultural, social and ecological effects of a 20th century, Euro-Canadian agrarian settlement on the food system of a subarctic First Nation; this will act as the first step in developing a more sustainable local food program and enhancing food security in this community.
To investigate the socio-cultural impacts of the Euro-Canadian agrarian initiative on the food system of Fort Albany First Nation, purposive, semi-directive interviews were conducted with elders and other knowledgeable community members. Interview data were placed into themes using inductive analyses. To determine the biophysical impact of the agrarian initiative, soil samples were taken from one site within the cultivated area and from one site in an undisturbed forest area. Soil properties associated with agricultural use and productivity were assessed. To compare the means of a given soil property between the sites, one-tailed t-tests were employed. Vegetative analysis was conducted in both sites to assess disturbance.
According to the interviewees, prior to the agrarian initiative, First Nation families harvested wild game and fish, and gathered berries as well as other forms of vegetation for sustenance. With the introduction of the residential school and agrarian initiative, traditional food practices were deemed inadequate, families were forced to work and live in the settlement (becoming less reliant on traditional foods), and yet little knowledge sharing of agricultural practices occurred. When the residential school and agrarian movement came to an end in the 1970s, First Nation community members were left to become reliant on an import food system. The mission's agrarian techniques resulted in overall degradation of soil quality and ecological integrity: compared the natural boreal forest, the cultivated area had been colonized by invasive species and had significantly lower soil levels of nitrogen, magnesium and organic carbon, and significantly higher levels of phosphorus and bulk density.
Because the agrarian initiative was not a viable long-term approach to food security in Fort Albany, the people became more reliant on imported goods. Taking into account climate change, there exists an opportunity whereby fruits and vegetables, historically stunted-in-growth or outside the distributional range of subarctic Canada, could now grow in the north. Together, agroecosystem stewardship practices and community-based, autonomous food security programs have the potential to increase locally grown food availability in a sustainable manner.
Chemical contaminants in the Canadian subarctic present a health risk with exposures primarily occurring via the food consumption.
Characterization of soil contaminants is needed in northern Canada due to increased gardening and agricultural food security initiatives and the presence of known point sources of pollution.
A field study was conducted in the western James Bay Region of Ontario, Canada, to examine the concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and its metabolites (SDDT), other organochlorines, and metals/metalloids in potentially contaminated agriculture sites.
Exposure pathways were assessed by comparing the estimated daily intake to acceptable daily intake values. Ninety soil samples were collected at random (grid sampling) from 3 plots (A, B, and C) in Fort Albany (on the mainland), subarctic Ontario, Canada. The contaminated-soil samples were analysed by gas chromatography with an electron capture detector or inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer.
The range of SDDT in 90 soil samples was below the limit of detection to 4.19 mg/kg. From the 3 soil plots analysed, Plot A had the highest SDDT mean concentration of 1.12 mg/kg, followed by Plot B and Plot C which had 0.09 and 0.01 mg/kg, respectively. Concentrations of other organic contaminants and metals in the soil samples were below the limit of detection or found in low concentrations in all plots and did not present a human health risk.
Exposure analyses showed that the human risk was below regulatory thresholds. However, the SDDT concentration in Plot A exceeded soil guidelines set out by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment of 0.7 mg/kg, and thus the land should not be used for agricultural or recreational purposes. Both Plots B and C were below threshold limits, and this land can be used for agricultural purposes.
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Food security is an important social determinant of health. The 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey, Cycle 2.2 reported high prevalence of food insecurity among low income households and those formed by recent immigrants. Exploration of the extent and correlates of food insecurity among recent Latin Americans (LA) immigrants is essential considering they encompasses an increasing number of young immigrants, many of whom, despite relatively high education, are unemployed or have low wage positions. This study examines the extent of food insecurity and its correlates among recent Latin American (LA) immigrants in Toronto. A cross-sectional study was conducted with a convenience sample of 70 adult LA recent immigrants. Participants were recruited from selected community health centres across Toronto using snow ball sampling. Data were collected using questionnaires in face-to-face interviews with primary household care givers. A considerably high rate of food insecurity (56%) was found among participants. Household food insecurity was highly related to: being on social assistance; limited proficiency in English; and the use of foodbanks. Our findings indicate that the primary correlate of a household's food security status is income, which suggests the potential for strategies to improve the financial power of new immigrants to purchase sufficient, nutritious, and culturally acceptable food. Enhancing the employability of new immigrants, reforming the income structure for working adults beyond social assistance, and providing more subsidized English language and housing programs may be effective.
Responses to food insecurity in Canada have been dominated by community-based food initiatives, while little attention has been paid to potential policy directions to alleviate this problem. The purpose of this paper is to examine food security circumstances, participation in community food programs, and strategies employed in response to food shortages among a sample of low-income families residing in high-poverty Toronto neighbourhoods.
Data from surveys conducted with 484 families and neighbourhood mapping were analyzed.
Two thirds of families were food insecure over the past 12 months and over one quarter were severely food insecure, indicative of food deprivation. Only one in five families used food banks in the past 12 months and the odds of use were higher among food-insecure families. One third of families participated in children's food programs but participation was not associated with household food security. One in 20 families used a community kitchen, and participation in community gardens was even lower. It was relatively common for families to delay payments of bills or rent and terminate services as a way to free up money for food and these behaviours were positively associated with food insecurity.
While documenting high rates of food insecurity, this research challenges the presumption that current community-based food initiatives are reaching those in need. Public health practitioners have a responsibility to critically examine the programs that they deliver to assess their relevance to food-insecure households and to advocate for policy reforms to ensure that low-income households have adequate resources for food.
Food insecurity is prevalent in northern communities in Canada and there is a movement to improve food security through both the re-vitalization of traditional harvesting practices as well as through sustainable agriculture initiatives. Gardening in northern communities can be difficult and may be aided by a community greenhouse. The objective of this project was to conduct a descriptive case study of the context and process surrounding the implementation of a community greenhouse in a remote, sub-Arctic First Nations community in Ontario, Canada.
Data sources included semi-directed interviews with a purposive and snowball sample of key informants (n=14), direct observations (n=32 days), written documentation (n=107), and photo-documentation (n=621 total). Digital photographs were taken by both a university investigator during community visits and a community investigator throughout the entire project. The case study was carried out over 33 months; from early 2009 until October of 2011. Thematic data analyses were conducted and followed a categorical aggregation approach.
Categories emerging from the data were appointed gardening-related themes: seasons, fertile ground, sustainability, gardeners, ownership, participant growth, and sunshine. Local champions were critical to project success. Uncertainty was expressed by several participants regarding ownership of the greenhouse; the local community members who championed the project had to emphasize, repeatedly, that it was community owned. Positive outcomes included the involvement of many community members, a host of related activities, and that the greenhouse has been a learning opportunity to gain knowledge about growing plants in a northern greenhouse setting. A strength of the project was that many children participated in greenhouse activities.
Community and school greenhouse projects require local champions to be successful. It is important to establish guidelines around ownership of a greenhouse and suitable procedures for making the building accessible to everyone without compromising security. Implementing a greenhouse project can engage community members, including children, and provide a great learning opportunity for gardeners in a remote, northern community.
This paper is based on a critical discourse content analysis of 40 stories from the 20 highest circulating English-language mass magazines available in Canada and published in Canada or the USA in 2001. It examines the presence or absence of the social determinants perspective in the portrayal of the two most significant causes of morbidity and mortality in these countries: cancer and heart disease. The media analysis documents an absence of reflection of the social determinants viewpoint on these, the most important causes of disease and death. Thus, magazine stories ignore the role of such considerations as income, education level, ethnicity, visible minority or, Aboriginal status, early life experiences, employment and working conditions, food accessibility and quality, housing, social services, social exclusion, or unemployment and employment security in explaining health. Instead, the magazine articles underscore an individualistic approach to disease that assumes that health care is accessible and available to all, and that these diseases are preventable and treatable through individual lifestyle choices in combination with the measures prescribed through conventional medicine. Although cancer and heart disease are framed by a medical discourse, articles tended to emphasise the independence, freedom and power of the individual within the medical care system. The research documents a continuation of the dominance of conventional medicine buttressed by individualism in media stories. Theoretical and methodological issues are discussed. Some of the practical consequences for policy-makers and professionals are noted.