Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Milk scarcity and Kraft Dinner®: Why the two so often go together, and why they shouldn't

Canada's food insecurity problem is not just a human rights tragedy: it is a public health travesty.

(For more information on food insecurity, see previous post, "Public discussion about food insecurity in Canada," featuring the Canadian Community Health Survey 2.2.)

To the extent that we, as members of the public, believe that charitable food distribution is the only realistic response, we have a fundamentally flawed perspective on the nature of the problem, its causes, and its overall effects. Food insecurity is a symptom of income inadequacy and income insecurity. Preventing food insecurity will mean tacking the various reasons why people's incomes fall short of meeting basic needs, including food.

Today, an academic paper entitled, "Discomforting comfort foods: Stirring the pot on Kraft Dinner® and social inequality in Canada," appeared in the online version of the international peer-reviewed journal, Agriculture and Human Health. I am the lead author; my esteemed co-authors are Lynn McIntyre and Krista Rondeau.

Our analysis highlights that even when members of the public recognize the existence of food insecurity, we often underestimate the severity of the problem.

For one thing, we take for granted the availability of basics like milk and butter. But people living in food insecurity often can't afford these items, especially near the end of the month -- like now.

For another, food insecurity is not just a social problem, it's a public health problem. Malnutrition, but also feeling isolated and unable to exercise control over something as fundamental as what we eat, is bad for people's health.

A media release accompanied the publication, and so this morning, I had the privilege of serving as an interview subject for TV, print and radio. Later today, I will do additional live interviews for CBC Radio's The Homestretch and Radio-Canada's Le quotidien.

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