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.
To compare food expenditure patterns between low-income households and higher- income households in the Canadian population, and to examine the relationship between food expenditure patterns and the presence or absence of housing payments among low-income households.
Secondary data analysis of the 1996 Family Food Expenditure Survey conducted by Statistics Canada.
Sociodemographic data and 1-week food expenditure data for 9793 households were analysed.
Data were collected from a nationally representative sample drawn through stratified multistage sampling. Low-income households were identified using Statistics Canada's Low Income Measures.
Total food expenditures, expenditures at stores and expenditures in restaurants were lower among low-income households compared with other households. Despite allocating a slightly greater proportion of their food dollars to milk products, low-income households purchased significantly fewer servings of these foods. They also purchased fewer servings of fruits and vegetables than did higher-income households. The effect of low income on milk product purchases persisted when the sample was stratified by education and expenditure patterns were examined in relation to income within strata. Among low-income households, the purchase of milk products and meat and alternatives was significantly lower for households that had to pay rents or mortgages than for those without housing payments.
Our findings indicate that, among Canadian households, access to milk products and fruits and vegetables may be constrained in the context of low incomes. This study highlights the need for greater attention to the affordability of nutritious foods for low-income groups.
A number of studies have pointed to the pressure that housing costs can exert on the resources available for food. The objectives of the present study were to characterise the relationship between the proportion of income absorbed by housing and the adequacy of household food expenditures across the Canadian population and within income quintiles; and to elucidate the impact of receipt of a housing subsidy on adequacy of food expenditures among low-income tenant households.
The 2001 Survey of Household Spending, conducted by Statistics Canada, was a national cross-sectional survey that collected detailed information on expenditures on goods and services. The adequacy of food spending was assessed in relation to the cost of a basic nutritious diet.
The person with primary responsibility for financial maintenance from 15 535 households from all provinces and territories.
As the proportion of income allocated to housing increased, food spending adequacy declined significantly among households in the three lowest income quintiles. After accounting for household income and composition, receipt of a housing subsidy was associated with an improvement in adequacy of food spending among low-income tenant households, but still mean food spending fell below the cost of a basic nutritious diet even among subsidised households.
This study indicates that housing costs compromise the food access of some low-income households and speaks to the need to re-examine policies related to housing affordability and income adequacy.
Although supplement use is prevalent in North America, there is little information on how supplements affect the prevalence of nutrient adequacy or risk of intakes greater than the tolerable upper intake level (UL). The objectives of this study were to compare the prevalence of nutrient adequacy and percent of intakes greater than the UL from diet alone between supplement users and nonusers and determine the contribution of supplements to nutrient intakes. Dietary intakes (24-h recall) and supplement use (previous 30 d) from respondents =1 y in the Canadian Community Health Survey 2.2 (n = 34,381) were used to estimate the prevalence of nutrient adequacy and intakes greater than the UL. Software for Intake Distribution Evaluation was used to estimate usual intakes. The prevalence of nutrient adequacy from diet alone was not significantly higher among supplement users than nonusers for any nutrient. Based on diet alone, children 1-13 y had a low prevalence of nutrient adequacy (30%. For other nutrients, there was a low prevalence of nutrient adequacy. There were no nutrient intakes greater than the UL from diet alone, except zinc in children. When supplements were included, =10% of users in some age/sex groups had intakes of vitamins A and C, niacin, folic acid, iron, zinc, and magnesium greater than the UL, reaching >80% for vitamin A and niacin in children. In conclusion, from diet alone, the prevalence of nutrient adequacy was low for most nutrients except for calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A and D. For most nutrients, supplement users were not at greater risk of inadequacy than nonusers; supplement use sometimes led to intakes greater than the UL.
In 1998, the Canadian government mandated folic acid fortification of white flour and enriched grain products to lower the prevalence of neural tube defects. There is now growing concern over the potential harmful effects of too much folic acid on some segments of the population. Given that the actual amount of folate in Canadian foods is unknown, the objective of this study was to measure the folate content in selected fortified foods.
Using data from the 2001 Food Expenditure Survey and the ACNielsen Company, 95 of the most commonly purchased folic acid-fortified foods in Canada were identified. Folate concentrations in these foods were determined using tri-enzyme digestion followed by microbiological assay. Analyzed values were compared to those in the Canadian Nutrient File (2007b, CNF) and to label values.
The analyzed folate content of foods was, on average, 151% +/- 63 of the CNF values. Analyzed values as a percent of CNF values ranged from 116% in the "rolls and buns" category to 188% in "ready-to-eat cereals". Analyzed values were higher than label values for "breads", "rolls and buns" and "ready-to-eat cereals" (141%, 118% and 237%, respectively [p
In Canada, increased morbidity and shorter life expectancy have been found among those with lower incomes and lower levels of education, but there has been little examination of socioeconomic variation in food and nutrient intake. Using data from the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey, we examined the relationship between household income and education level and adults' and children's intakes of energy, fibre, micronutrients, and number of servings consumed of food groups from Canada's Food Guide. To explore the public health significance of observed associations, we estimated the prevalence of inadequacy for selected nutrients for adults, stratifying by household income, education level, and sex. We found that a higher household income adequacy and (or) higher levels of education were associated with increased consumption of milk and alternatives, and vegetables and fruit, and significantly higher vitamin, mineral, and fibre intakes among both adults and children. The prevalence of inadequate nutrient intakes among adults was higher among adults with the lowest level of income adequacy or educational attainment, compared with others. Our results suggest that the nutritional quality of Canadians' food intakes is, in part, a function of their social position. The impact of policy and program interventions needs to be examined across socioeconomic strata to ensure that actions reduce rather than exacerbate nutrition inequities.