Saturday, 23 August 2008

Public discussion about food insecurity in Canada

Animal-sourced foods have probably always been crucial to the health of human populations. An important current issue is the unequal distribution of animal-sourced foods, including milk.

Many people living on low incomes in Canada must carefully ration milk, and often go without, research led by my UCalgary colleague Dr Lynn McIntyre has shown.

Yet if you search for evidence of public discussion about food insecurity in Canada, say by typing "food insecurity" and Canada into Google, you don't find very much. Several government and academic documents show up, but not much outside of these realms.

Of course, food insecurity is a more technical term than hunger - but it's also more amenable to measurement. A lot of time and attention has been invested in creating reliable and useful measures of the extent to which people go without food, compromise their nutrition, disregard preferences, and fear running out of food as a result of running out of money.

In Canada, the most comprehensive and reliable statistics available come from the Canadian Community Health Survey Cycle 2.2, which was administered in 2004. That study showed that, in the year preceding the survey, nearly 1 in 10 households (1.1 million people) had experienced food insecurity. For a link to the full report and a synoposis of the key findings, see Shelved in the W's: Working Notes of a Hospital Librarian.

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