PROOF of food insecurity in Canada
Dr. Lynn McIntyre reflects on the PROOF 2011 household food insecurity report.
An interdisciplinary team of researchers, known as PROOF, has released their annual report Household Food Insecurity in Canada, 2011.
Findings show that 1.6 million Canadian households experienced some level of food insecurity. That means that slightly more than 12% of households had inadequate or insecure access to food because of lack of money.
To find out why understanding food insecurity is important for public health, I spoke with Dr. Lynn McIntyre, PROOF Investigator, Professor, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary and NCCDH Advisory Board member about the report.
Lynn, why are you passionate about food insecurity?
Food insecurity is a dynamic way to think about an inequity that has health implications. We are supposed to eat every day, three times a day. The experience of food insecurity is in the face of Canadians that are affected and should be deeply concerning to all of us.
Why does the PROOF initiative measure food insecurity in Canadian households?
We decided that an important starting point for discussing how policy interventions could address food insecurity was to tell people how food insecurity is measured (rather than just using food bank counts), what the numbers are, where the problems are, and who is affected. This is not a trivial problem. For most of the country, this situation is getting worse.
How can public health practitioners and researchers use this report?
These are the numbers that we should cite so that we use the best measures available as a starting point for discussions. Food insecurity is mostly an income problem, not a food problem. Advocacy should examine what can be done to help the most financially vulnerable in the country. Newfoundland and Labrador’s singular and dramatic improvement in food insecurity since 2008 speaks to how poverty reduction strategies and economic distribution across the whole population can cut the problem in half.
What would you like to see happen as an outcome of this report?
I’d like to see the annual results of the Canadian Community Health Survey measure of household food insecurity become the discussion metric and comparison at all levels—regional rates are also available. I would encourage us to keep pushing on proposals to raise minimum income and social assistance rates and to consider how income inequality might be leading to health inequity. Finally, when the 2012 report is released, read it and if the results are no better, ask why.