University of Toronto professor Valerie Tarasuk is lead author of the study, which finds that 3.9 million Canadians and 330,000 households couldn’t access enough safe and nutritious food in 2011 to get by.
The study holds that the number of citizens affected by food insecurity is rising; 450,000 more Canadians were affected in 2011, compared to 2008.
Processors can help
Food Secure Canada seeks to ensure that Canadians get sufficient, consistent nutrition through various avenues. Amanda Sheedy, coordinator for Food Secure Canada, told FoodProductionDaily.com that food manufacturers and processing firms can make a difference in food security.
“To begin with, they can support progressive social policy aimed at poverty reduction,” she said. “Oftentimes, industry sees social policies as a cost to them through taxes, but we all benefit from lower rates of poverty.”
Sheedy said that one way food firms can positively impact the food security problem is to start by supporting small- and medium-size farms, which provide an important building block for the food industry and national economy.
“Many of these farms and holding on by a thread, and processors and distributors have a choice about whether to work with them or not," she said. "Overall, we at Food Secure Canada feel that by nurturing diversity in our food system, we are also nurturing the many ways that people can access the food that they need for their health and well-being.”
Tarasuk said that sustained periods of food insecurity can severely impact young Canadians—not just with rumbling stomachs, but with long-term effects.
“It’s toxic to human health,” she said. “By the time [children are] teenagers and young adults, they’re more likely to be diagnosed with a whole range of health problems,” she said.
Sheedy added that part of the challenge is pointing out that Canada, perceived as a relatively well-off country, has a problem with hunger and food access.
“Many people assume that because Canada is a rich country that we don't have poverty and food insecurity,” she said. “This report proves quite the opposite: that if we continue to ignore these very real problems, it will only get worse.”