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Study: more than half of Nunavut children live in food insecure households

More than one-third of Nunavut households food insecure

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

This graph shows that Nunavut, at 56.5 per cent, has the highest proportion of children living in food insecure households in 2011, while Newfoundland and Labrador, at 14.2 per cent cent, has the lowest.


This graph shows that Nunavut, at 56.5 per cent, has the highest proportion of children living in food insecure households in 2011, while Newfoundland and Labrador, at 14.2 per cent cent, has the lowest.

A study released July 25 by a team of researchers at the University of Toronto found that 56.5 per cent of Nunavut children — more than half of all children in the territory — live in households deemed “food insecure.”

At the same time, 36.5 per cent of all households in Nunavut reported at least some degree of food insecurity.

The study, done by six researchers from a variety of institutions working within a program called PROOF, housed at the U. of T.’s Department of Nutritional Science, was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

In it, they found that the northern territories, especially Nunavut, as well as the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, contain the highest proportions of food insecure households.

The only Canadian province to show a decline in food insecurity is Newfoundland and Labrador, where food insecurity dropped from 15.7 per cent in 2007 to only 10.6 per cent in 2011.

For all of Canada, about 12 per cent of all households, representing about 1.6 million households, reported some form of food insecurity.

The researchers said these numbers show that access to affordable food is a serious public health issue in Canada, especially for children.

“Recent research in Canada has shown that the experience of hunger leaves an indelible mark on children’s physical and mental health, manifesting in greater likelihood of such conditions as depression and asthma in adolescence and early adulthood,” they said in their report.

For adults, food insecurity can worsen their physical and mental health and lead to higher rates of numerous chronic conditions, including depression, diabetes, and heart disease.

And poor access to food makes chronic diseases more difficult for health care providers to manage, they said.

The study’s researchers drew their numbers from the 2011 version of Statistics Canada’s annual Canadian Community Health Survey.

They define three levels of food insecurity:

• marginal food insecurity — some concern or problem with food access over the previous 12 months;

• moderate food insecurity — those who reported compromises in the quality or quantity of food consumed among adults or children over the previous 12 months; and

• severe food insecurity — those who report “extensive compromises,” such as reduced food intake because of a lack of money for food.

In Nunavut, 16.9 per cent of households were found to suffer from severe food insecurity, while 15.9 per cent reported moderate food insecurity and 3.5 per cent reported marginal food insecurity.

The researchers also found that food insecurity often results from low income, with single parent families being the most vulnerable.

“Because food insecurity often results from a household’s inability to access food for financial reasons, it is not surprising that income is closely related to food insecurity,” the research team said.

The full study is available here.

The 2007 Qanuippitali Inuit health survey, during which 1,268 Inuit households in Nunavut were surveyed, found food insecurity affects about 70 per cent of households.

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