I think about food a lot. I love to eat and I love to make tasty and fun meals for my husband and our four-year-old son (my youngest hasn’t started solids yet, but you can bet I’m already thinking of what I want to make him when he does). What I am lucky to not have to think about is whether I have enough money to buy food. But that’s a luxury 3.9 million Canadians (including 1.1 million children) don’t have, according to a brand new report produced by PROOF, a group of researchers funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. And the numbers are likely higher, as the reported data did not include our homeless and those living on First Nations reserves.
One in eight households in this country worry about where their next meals will come from, buy cheaper and less nutritious food than they would like to, eat less than they’d like to or miss meals entirely. It’s what’s known as food insecurity and as of 2011 (the year the research is based on) 450,000 more Canadians were in this boat than in 2008, the last time this was measured across the country. And here’s the thing, families are some of those most vulnerable to food insecurity, in particular single mothers; 35 percent of single mothers asked faced this in 2011. And if you break it down by region, Northern Canadians and those in the Maritimes are hit hardest by this (one out of every two children in Nunavut is food insecure). Kids are going hungry. Your children’s classmates are going hungry. Maybe your children are going hungry.
Take a look at the infographics above and below to get some sense of the scale.
I knew this was an issue (my sister Jordan works at Second Harvest which delivers donated excess food, which would have typically been wasted, to partner agencies in Toronto. Kids represent 40 percent of those who receive their food), but I had no idea how vast the problem was. The report’s authors call on the federal, provincial and territorial governments to take this on and create programs to help fight food insecurity and I agree. Not only does food insecurity affect the people who are living it, but it also affects the health and prosperity of the entire country.
What can you do in the meantime?[adspot]
The work being done by groups like Second Harvest and Not Far From The Tree (an organization that, with permission, collects unused fruit from homeowners’ trees and bushes in Toronto and donates it to food banks and community kitchens), is amazing, and, ideally, there would be no need for them. But for now there is a need and they, and many other similar outfits, can use your support. So if you can, volunteer, donate and spread the word. Every Canadian deserves our help.