A secondary analysis of data from a study of nutritional vulnerability among 153 women in families seeking charitable food assistance was undertaken to estimate the extent and nutritional significance of at-home food preparation activity for these women. At-home food preparation was estimated from women's reported food intakes from three 24-hour recalls. The relationships between food preparation and energy and nutrient intake, food intake, and 30-day household food security status were characterized. Almost all participants (97%) consumed foods prepared from scratch at least once during the three days of observation; 57% did so each day. Both the frequency and complexity of at-home food preparation were positively related to women's energy and nutrient intakes and their consumption of fruits and vegetables, grain products, and meat and alternates. The intakes by women in households with food insecurity with hunger reflected less complex food preparation but no less preparation from scratch than women in households where hunger was not evident, raising questions about the extent to which food skills can protect very poor families from food insecurity and hunger. Our findings indicate the need for nutrition professionals to become effective advocates for policy reforms to lessen economic constraints on poor households.
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.
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, which has been recognized as an important determinant of health, is estimated to have affected almost one in ten Canadian households in 2004. Analyses of indicators of household food insecurity on several recent population health surveys have shed light on markers of vulnerability and the public health implications of this problem. However, the lack of detailed information on the economic circumstances of households and inconsistent measurement across surveys thwart attempts to develop a deeper understanding of problems of food insecurity. To better inform the development and evaluation of policies to address food insecurity among Canadian households, more effective monitoring is needed. This requires the consistent administration of a well-validated measure of food security on a population survey that routinely collects detailed information on the economic circumstances of households. Health professionals can contribute to the amelioration of problems of food insecurity in Canada by advocating for improved monitoring of the problem at a population level.
Household food insecurity constrains food selection, but whether the dietary compromises associated with this problem heighten the risk of nutrient inadequacies is unclear. The objectives of this study were to examine the relationship between household food security status and adults' and children's dietary intakes and to estimate the prevalence of nutrient inadequacies among adults and children, differentiating by household food security status. We analyzed 24-h recall and household food security data for persons aged 1-70 y from the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey (cycle 2.2). The relationship between adults' and children's nutrient and food intakes and household food security status was assessed using regression analysis. Estimates of the prevalence of inadequate nutrient intakes by food security status and age/sex group were calculated using probability assessment methods. Poorer dietary intakes were observed among adolescents and adults in food-insecure households and many of the differences by food security status persisted after accounting for potential confounders in multivariate analyses. Higher estimated prevalences of nutrient inadequacy were apparent among adolescents and adults in food-insecure households, with the differences most marked for protein, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, folate, vitamin B-12, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Among children, few differences in dietary intakes by household food security status were apparent and there was little indication of nutrient inadequacy. This study indicates that for adults and, to some degree, adolescents, food insecurity is associated with inadequate nutrient intakes. These findings highlight the need for concerted public policy responses to ameliorate household food insecurity.
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.
Household food insecurity is a potent social determinant of health and health care costs in Canada, but understanding of the social and economic conditions that underlie households' vulnerability to food insecurity is limited.
Data from the 2011-12 Canadian Community Health Survey were used to determine predictors of household food insecurity among a nationally-representative sample of 120,909 households. Household food insecurity over the past 12?months was assessed using the 18-item Household Food Security Survey Module. Households were classified as food secure or marginally, moderately, or severely food insecure based on the number of affirmative responses. Multivariable binary and multinomial logistic regression analyses were used to determine geographic and socio-demographic predictors of presence and severity of household food insecurity.
The prevalence of household food insecurity ranged from 11.8% in Ontario to 41.0% in Nunavut. After adjusting for socio-demographic factors, households' odds of food insecurity were lower in Quebec and higher in the Maritimes, territories, and Alberta, compared to Ontario. The adjusted odds of food insecurity were also higher among households reliant on social assistance, Employment Insurance or workers' compensation, those without a university degree, those with children under 18, unattached individuals, renters, and those with an Aboriginal respondent. Higher income, immigration, and reliance on seniors' income sources were protective against food insecurity. Living in Nunavut and relying on social assistance were the strongest predictors of severe food insecurity, but severity was also associated with income, education, household composition, Aboriginal status, immigration status, and place of residence. The relation between income and food insecurity status was graded, with every $1000 increase in income associated with 2% lower odds of marginal food insecurity, 4% lower odds of moderate food insecurity, and 5% lower odds of severe food insecurity.
The probability of household food insecurity in Canada and the severity of the experience depends on a household's province or territory of residence, income, main source of income, housing tenure, education, Aboriginal status, and household structure. Our findings highlight the intersection of household food insecurity with public policy decisions in Canada and the disproportionate burden of food insecurity among Indigenous peoples.