Food Insecurity in our Big City

A study done in 2009, and one done in 2010 by Sharon Kirkpatrik (Division of Cancer Control and Population Science) and Valerie Tarasuk (Department of Nutrition Sciences) displayed results of 501 Torontonian residents, of working class backgrounds.  The results showed that 37.6% of families were moderately food insecure, and 27.7% were severely food insecure, meaning that they did not have enough money to supply their families everyday (Kirkpatrik, Tarasuk, 136).  To counter this everyday struggle the most popular solutions in order of popularity were to delay paying bills, delay paying rent, pawn personal belongings and give up their cable television service (Kirkpatrik Tarasuk, 137).

  The website PROOF, which is dedicated to promoting awareness to hunger issues in Canada, recently stated that 3.6 Canadians do not have adequate access to food  Clearly this is a big issue that has not been publicized enough.  Many of us feel grateful to live in a land of opportunity, yet these statistics question what some of us take for granted, food, which keeps us healthy and able to do the thing we want.

Some people might argue that food banks are a valid solution, but today a research of food insecurity made it clear that food banks are, and were never meant to be a sustainable solution.  By having them around we are enforcing the inequality that continues to exist, rather than finding a legitimate solution to the problem.  And although there are many food banks, the low rate of use, compared to the high amount of food insecure families goes to show that people choose not to use these food banks, and instead, they often resort to other strategies that create greater instability, such as delaying rent.  Perhaps this is a result of the beliefs of our society has created; we see ourselves as fully responsible for our actions and state of being for the most part.  So to go to a food bank and accept our lack of ability to access food seems counter-intuitive.  But, maybe it goes even further than that, is it not after all the government who has created the policies preventing higher wages, housing availability and providing the food banks?  They are the ones responsible for these social structures that either limit us or further our own abilities.  So, to question, what should those who have food insecurity do is perhaps the wrong question, Kirkpatrik and Tarasuk’s research show that these families are doing what they can to keep on surviving, whether through food banks or not.  Perhaps the question that could lead to more effective solutions overall should be, what should the government do to help these struggling families? 

Kirkpatrik, S and Tarasuk, V. 2009.  Food insecurity and participation in community food programs among low-income Toronto families. Canadian Journal of Public Health, March/April, 135-139.

Kirkpatrik, S and Tarasuk, V. 2010.  Assessing the relevance of neighbourhood characteristics to the household food security of low-income Toronto families. Public Health Nutrition, 13(7),1139-1148.


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