Food Insecurity in Poor Canadian Seniors is Greatly Reduced when Guaranteed Annual Income Kicks in

In a new PROOF research article published in Canadian Public Policy, Lynn McIntyre, Daniel Dutton, Cynthia Kwok, and Herb Emery show that guaranteed annual income is effective in decreasing food insecurity among low income seniors in Canada. Learn more in the press release below.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Food Insecurity in Poor Canadian Seniors is Greatly Reduced when Guaranteed Annual Income Kicks in

Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement identified as a key driver of substantial decreases in food insecurity among the poorest seniors in Canada.

Canadian Public Policy cover

The low prevalence of poverty among Canadian seniors has been attributed to a guaranteed annual income: the Old Age Security program and its supplement for those with low incomes. One measure of extreme poverty is food insecurity. This study authored by Lynn McIntyre, Daniel Dutton, Cynthia Kwok, and Herb Emery, shows that guaranteed annual income is effective in decreasing food insecurity among low income seniors in Canada. Turning 65 and being eligible for this funding is associated with, on average, a 15 percentage point drop in food insecurity compared to baseline.

The authors use seven years of national-level data from the Canadian Community Health Survey to examine food insecurity prevalence among those aged 55 to 74. Focusing on low income single-person households (<$20K / year) reflected a statistically significant drop in those who were food insecure after the age of 65, coupled with a shift in source of income from wages or from conditional public assistance (e.g., workers’ compensation or welfare) to public pensions. As a result, the prevalence of food insecurity was cut nearly in half. This effect was most beneficial for those with low income and low wealth, indicated by not owning a home.

Low income home owners continued to experience low food insecurity levels throughout the observation period, which is intuitive since they could absorb short term shocks to their household budget by borrowing. In contrast, low income renters seemed to have the greatest benefits from the guaranteed annual income and approaching the level of home owners. Since this analysis was limited to those earning <$20K / year, these decreases in food insecurity are determined not only by the amount of money individuals receive but also the stability of the funding; none of the individuals in this study were significantly enriched by this policy yet the drop in food insecurity was sizable.

Food insecurity leads to higher health care costs and utilization, over and above regular poverty indicators. This study demonstrates that even small amounts of guaranteed annual income can have a potentially important impact on poverty and, in turn, costs borne by the rest of society. The current Liberal federal government overturned a policy change instated by the previous government changing the age of eligibility for Old Age Security from 65 to 67. The issue remains as to whether using an age-based demogrant is appropriate, and future work could identify alternative funding models that address poverty before individuals are eligible for Old Age Security.

Daniel J. Dutton is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Lethbridge’s Prentice Institute for Global Population and Economy. His training is in population health and economics and he has a special interest in how policy can change population-level health outcomes. In the past he worked for the Ontario Ministry of Finance before moving to Alberta for his Ph.D.

“Reduction of Food Insecurity among Low-Income Canadian Seniors as a Likely Impact of a Guaranteed Annual Income” by Lynn McIntyre, Daniel J. Dutton, Cynthia Kwok, and J.C. Herbert Emery is available online, open access, for a limited time: http://bit.ly/CPP423d.

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[PDF version of Press Release] This press release originally released by University of Toronto Press.

Media Contacts:

Daniel Dutton
Post-Doctoral Fellow
University of Lethbridge
daniel.dutton@uleth.ca
http://www.uleth.ca/communications
https://twitter.com/ulethbridge

Lauren Naus
Marketing Specialist
University of Toronto Press
lnaus@utpress.utoronto.ca
www.utpjournals.press/loi/cpp
www.twitter.com/utpjournals

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New Publication: Legislation Debated as Responses to Household Food Insecurity in Canada, 1995–2012

Legislation Debated as Responses to Household Food Insecurity in Canada, 1995–2012
McIntyre L, Lukic R, Patterson P, Anderson L, Mah C (2016)
Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, Published online
[Abstract]

This study reviewed Hansard records for 4 jurisdictions – British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and the federal government – between 1995-2012 to examine the policy proposals put forth to address household food insecurity and how they were debated in legislation. Although legislators debated a variety of policy actions and acknowledged that inadequate income causes food insecurity, legislative proposals and tabled bills primarily focused on food-based charity responses, contributing to the validation of food banks as a policy response.

Of the 4 bills that received royal assent during the studied time period, only one had the explicit intent to address food insecurity – a bill to reduce the liability for unknowingly harmful food donations in British Columbia. 2 assented bills in British Columbia and Nova Scotia focused public health and health promotion and were criticized by some members for not addressing underlying issues to health, like food insecurity. An assented bill to regulate food labeling in Ontario schools received similar criticism for failing to address the component of poverty when discussing children’s health. At the federal level, no legislation intended to directly address food insecurity or contribute to its reduction was tabled.

Despite a growing literature on the the downloading of the responsibility for food insecurity from the public to the charitable sector, and an awareness among legislators that inadequate incomes causes food insecurity, little has been done to address this issue through income-based policies.

New Publication: Household Food Insecurity in Canada: Problem Definition and Potential Solutions in the Public Policy Domain

Household Food Insecurity in Canada: Problem Definition and Potential Solutions in the Public Policy Domain
McIntyre L, Patterson P, Anderson L, Mah C (2016)
Canadian Public Policy, 42(1), 83-93
[Abstract]

This study investigated the discussion of food insecurity in Canadian politics by examining federal and provincial Hansard records. The researchers found that legislators tied food insecurity to food banks, despite evidence that food banks are unable to address the problem and that food bank statistics greatly underestimate it. While the discussion around inadequate income, the root cause of food insecurity, is promising, it appears that it is not the primary focus of political discourse around solving food insecurity.

For more information, visit Laura Anderson’s blog post, “Political Talk about Food Insecurity in Canada“, for the UTP Journal Blog.

See also:

Political rhetoric from Canada can inform healthy public policy argumentation
Patterson P, McIntyre L, Anderson LC, Mah CL (2016)
Health Promotion International, Published online ahead of print
[Abstract]

New Publication: Changes in household food insecurity rates in Canadian metropolitan areas from 2007 to 2012

Changes in household food insecurity rates in Canadian metropolitan areas from 2007 to 2012
Sriram, U., & Tarasuk, V. (2015).
Can J Public Health,106(5), e322-e327.
[Abstract] [Full Text]

This study investigated the prevalence of household food insecurity in census metropolitan areas and the effect of various local economic factors on changes in these rates. Examining data from the 2007-2012 Canadian Community Health Survey, the researchers found peak unemployment rates to be associated with the prevalence of food insecurity. These results ​support a growing literature that identifies employment conditions as central problem​s​ ​of food insecurity ​and suggest that policy initiatives to improve these conditions ​could reduce food insecurity.

New Publications: Food bank usage is a poor indicator of food insecurity and Canada-US comparison of food insecurity and nutrient intakes

Food Bank Usage Is a Poor Indicator of Food Insecurity: Insights from Canada
Loopstra R, Tarasuk V.
Social Policy and Society 2015; 14(3): 443-455
[Abstract]

Household Food Insecurity Is a Stronger Marker of Adequacy of Nutrient Intakes among Canadian Compared to American Youth and Adults
Kirkpatrick SI, Dodd KW, Parsons R, Ng C, Garriguet D, Tarasuk V.
Journal of Nutrition 2015 May 20. pii: jn208579. [Epub ahead of print]
[Abstract]

New Publications: Policy analysis of Canada’s response to the World Food Summit, Food bank operations in Canadian cities and Income-supplementation on food insecurity

A frame-critical policy analysis of Canada’s response to the World Food Summit 1998-2008
Mah CL, Hamill C, Rondeau K, McIntyre L.
Archives of Public Health 2014; 72(41)
[Free Full Text]

A survey of food bank operations in five Canadian cities
Tarasuk V, Dachner N, Hamelin AM, Ostry A, Williams P, Bosckei E, Poland B, Raine K.
BMC Public Health 2014, 14:1234
[Free Full Text]

A difference-in-differences approach to estimate the effect of income-supplementation on food insecurity
Ionescu-Ittu R, Glymour MM, Kaufman JS.
Prev Med. 2015; 70:108-16
[Abstract]

New publication making the case for a guaranteed annual income in Canada to reduce food insecurity and improve health

A Solution for Poverty
The School of Public Policy, University of Calgary
Lynn McIntyre outlines the findings of a report that examines whether offering guaranteed income to more… [Video]

How a guaranteed annual income could put food banks out of business
Emerya JCH, Fleisch VC, McIntyre L.
SPP Research Papers 2013; 6(37):1-20.
[Free Full Text]

New poverty reduction strategy calls for guaranteed income for more than just seniors
The School of Public Policy, University of Calgary
[Press Release]