Food Security & Health
Food security directly impacts human health. In fact, in a government study it appears that Canadians living in food insecure households had more than double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those in food secure households.
Scope of the Problem
In other words, there is a human problem related to food insecurity. Firstly, those living with food insecurity may not have reliable access to food. It may be that they can’t count on availability or access. Second, when they do have food there may not be enough of it. Third, having a low income often means working more than one job to make ends meet. Consequently, people are left too tired and with too little time to plan meals and cook. To clarify, that can lead to relying upon junk food or prepared food rather than creating nutritious meals made from fresh produce.
In fact, this is a much bigger problem right here in Canada than we may realize. Food insecure households have increased from approximately 9.2% of Canadian households in 2004 to 12% in 2014. To clarify, this means about 3.2 million people were struggling with these issues. And in 2021, we may be closer to 4.4 million people at risk for food insecurity in Canada.
Impacts of Food Insecurity
Studies show there is a clear link between diabetes and food insecurity. In fact, the University of Toronto reports that food insecurity negatively impacts children. Children may experience inattention or hyperactivity, or increased depression and suicidal thoughts. Also, they may be at higher risk for asthma.
Likewise, adults are also impacted, particularly from chronic health issues. For instance heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes and back problems. There also can be mental health impacts. In fact, they may develop anxiety and mood disorders, depression and have an increase of suicidal thoughts. Apparently, the severity of all these problems is directly related to the degree of food insecurity being experienced.
Food Security & Heath: A Global Perspective
Taking Action for Food Security
Certainly, we can see that food matters, beyond the comfort of a full belly in the moment. But, we are not helpless victims of this problem. And, we CAN grow our own food. For example, in a few pots on a windowsill, in a community garden plot or in our own backyards. Additionally, let’s think about our communities even if we don’t feel we need to improve food security for ourselves. Black people and Indigenous people are the most impacted by food insecurity. Clearly, we can take real action to show that we stand with people in these groups. We can help increase our own community’s food security.
If all this has stirred your interest, check out this overview of food security
Also, if you like to watch garden videos to learn, check out Gardening Chronicle for a great selection of curated garden video content.
Food security and health resources referenced include:
PROOF. (2021). Provincial Policy Levers to Reduce Household Food Insecurity [Fact sheet]. https://proof.utoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/PROOF_FACTSHEET_Provincial-policies-052021.pdf
Tait, Christopher A et al. “The association between food insecurity and incident type 2 diabetes in Canada: A population-based cohort study.” PloS one vol. 13,5 e0195962. 23 May. 2018, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0195962
Our World in Data, https://ourworldindata.org/food-supply
Our World in Data, https://proof.utoronto.ca/resources/proof-annual-reports/household-food-insecurity-in-canada-2017-2018/
Tarasuk V, Mitchell A. (2020) Household food insecurity in Canada, 2017-18. Toronto: Research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity (PROOF). Retrieved from https://proof.utoronto.ca/