According to the FAO, food security exists
- "when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."
Over 800 000 people were helped by food banks in 2013 across Canada and in 2010, food insecurity affected over 8% of British Columbians. According to the Dietitians of Canada, over 10 percent of Canadians (3 million) do not have enough money to buy safe and nutritious food. This prevents them from:
- Meeting their dietary needs
- Having the foods they prefer
- Enjoying a healthy diet
Lower socio-economic status (SES) has been associated with poorer quality diets; higher SES has been associated with better diet quality. Research on low income earners has frequently found that after basic needs, such as shelter, clothing, transportation are met, there is insufficient income for healthy well-balanced nutritious diets.
Analysis of data derived from a combination of dietary records, supermarket sales and national food prices has indicated that:
- healthier food choices (especially fruit and vegetables) are often more expensive than less healthier items.
- lower cost food items tend to be higher in energy (calories), added sugars and fats and lower in fiber and micronutrients.
When investigated as a function of price per nutrient, some fruit and vegetables have a low price per nutrient. In research, cabbage, carrots, oranges, bananas, fruit juices and frozen and canned vegetables demonstrated the most favourable nutrient to price ratio.
Food security is a topic that you will encounter when counselling patients as registered dietitians. Understanding what issues that could arise with insufficient income will help us in being able to provide practical nutritional advice.
Below are some resources to help you when counselling individuals living on low income. These have been compiled by past and current UBC Dietetics students, interns and dietitians.
Food Insecurity Background Information
Hunger Count 2013: A comprehensive report on hunger and food bank usage in Canada, and recommendations for change
Cost of Eating 2011: $868.43 is the cost of eating for a family of 4 for a month in 2011.
Practical Information for the RD
Welfare Food Challenge
Welfare Food Challenge 2013: RDs, interns and students take on the challenge of eating on $26 a week.
Welfare Food Challenge: Colleen McGuire, RD: Practice Blog entry on her experiences
Why $26? The BC government provides $610 a month in welfare to an able-bodied single person who has to prove they are looking for work. After subtracting rent, a damage deposit, bus fare, a cheap cell phone and personal hygiene products, there is about $109 left for food per month or $1308 per year. This equates to $3.58 per day or $25.09 per week – which is rounded up to $26. There is no allowance for clothes, a coffee, haircuts, or any social life or treats.
Quote from one of the DC Practice bloggers, Erika Kang, RD:
- "Ultimately I learned from this challenge that $26 per week is not enough to buy a healthy diet.
- On the plus side, I did learn 3 practical tips to help people with financial difficulties:
- Focus on making meals from scratch instead of buying convenience and processed meals. Although these can be tempting and convenient, they are usually low in nutrients and costly. Education is critical to provide people with the food skills necessary to cook homemade nutritious meals.
- Use dried beans and lentils as a protein source. Although it takes a bit of planning to soak and cook beans in advance, this is a great way to save money.
- Plan meals in advance to reduce stress. Knowing what you're going to eat in the coming week is a comforting feeling and ensures that your food will last until the next grocery trip."
- buy bulk
- buy items on sale, or use coupons
- use recipes that do not require special equipment
- buy foods that are in season, as they tend to be cheaper
- use a list when shopping, to prevent unplanned/spontaneous purchases
- have a few basic recipes on hand, that are versatile and can use any ingredients
- find ways to incorporate leftover into other meals
Healthy Eating: Cheap and Easy: Practical tips and information on eating on a budget
Simply Cook and Enjoy! (2014 Nutrition Month focus): Handout on stretching your food dollar.
Eating Well While Spending Less: PEN Handout
Food Banks, Community Kitchens and Other Food Resources for Patients
The Single Parent Food Banks of BC Society Maple Ridge: SPFB has been providing essential food bank service in the lower mainland for over 16 years to low-income single parent families. We are a small, self-supporting, independent organization with a primary mission of providing what are classified as hard-to-stock items at many food banks - quality, nutritional perishable foods. We buy baby items for emergency packages and receive non-perishable foods as they are donated.
Carnegie Community Centre 604-665-2220 401 Main Street Vancouver, BC V6A 2T7 The Carnegie Community Centre provides residents of the Downtown Eastside with affordable, nutritious food 3 times a day, 365 days a year from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Downtown Eastside Kitchen Tables Project Hosted by the Potluck Cafe Society, the Kitchen Tables Project is a collaboration of residents, food and service providers to create a sustainable Downtown Eastside Food System that enables people to access, abundant healthy food in a dignified manner while creating jobs in the community. Information about the locations of food distribution is available online and posted in key locations across the Downtown Eastside Community.
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre Kitchen The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre offers women and their children with a free lunch every day between 12:30 and 1:45 pm.
HAVE Cafe: HAVE Culinary Training Society Hosted at the HAVE Cafe, the HAVE Culinary Training Society is a culinary training program that offers food service job training and work opportunities to individuals who experience financial, mental, and/or physical barriers to employment. The training program at HAVE Cafe helps individuals to gain the employment skills needed to work in the tourism and hospitality industry.
Potluck Cafe Society The Potluck Cafe Society is a non-profit organization that offers the residents of the Downtown Eastside with accessible nutrition, employment, on-the-job training, community kitchen, and other meal programs, like the Kitchen Tables Project.
Quest Food Exchange The Food Exchange program provides individuals living on low income access to affordable, healthy food through the food programs like the Not-For-Profit Grocery Markets, Bulk Food Orders, Gift Certificates, and Community Kitchen.
Union Gospel Mission The Union Gospel Mission provides residents of the Downtown Eastside with free and nutritious meals 3 times a day, 365 days a year. The organization also hosts special celebratory meals for thousands of residents on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and during an annual Summer BBQ.
Evelyne Saller Centre Amenities include social, recreational and life-skill development programs, showers, laundry, and cafeteria with low-cost meals. The centre is located at 320 Alexander St, Vancouver BC. 604-665-3075.
Gathering Place Community Centre Amenities include an education centre, reading room, low-cost cafeteria, and programs for arts and recreation, health, youth and volunteers. The centre is located at 609 Helmcken St, Vancouver BC. 604-665-2391.
Food banks are available in a number of areas in the Lower Mainland. Please contact theGreater Vancouver Food Bank Society, at 604-876-3601, if you are unsure where your local food bank is located.
The following is a list of some food banks available in the Lower Mainland: