2 New PROOF Publications Examining Housing and Food Insecurity in Latest Volume of Canadian Journal of Public Health

A natural experimental study of the protective effect of home ownership on household food insecurity in Canada before and after a recession (2008–2009)
McIntyre K, Wu X, Kwok C, Emery H (2017)
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2017; 108(2), e135–e144. [Abstract]

McIntrye et al. used population data to examine the effect of the economic recession of 2008-09 on food insecurity among homeowners and renters. The authors found that the recession increased the vulnerability of renters to food insecurity but had no impact on homeowners. The results of this paper indicate a reduced ability among renters to weather financial shocks.

High vulnerability to household food insecurity in a sample of Canadian renter households in government-subsidized housing
Fafard St-Germain AA, Tarasuk V (2017)
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2017; 108(2), e129–e134. [Abstract]

Fafard St-Germain and Tarasuk examined the prevalence and severity of household food insecurity in a sample of households living in government-subsidized housing across the ten provinces. The study results show that half of the households were food insecure, with 1 in 4 experiencing moderate food insecurity and 1 in 5 experiencing severe food insecurity. Greater income was associated with lower risk of food insecurity, suggesting that income support is needed to reduce food insecurity among households living in government-subsidized housing.

Prevalence of Household Food Insecurity Among Households Living in Government-Subsidized Housing.

New Publication: The household food insecurity gradient and potential reductions in adverse population mental health outcomes in Canadian adults

The household food insecurity gradient and potential reductions in adverse population mental health outcomes in Canadian adults
Jessiman-Perreault G, McIntyre L (2017)
SSM-Population Health 2017; 3: 464-472.
[Free Full Text]

This study furthers our understanding of the relationship between household food insecurity and poor mental health by examining the relationship between the severity of household food insecurity and six mental health outcomes in a large pooled sample of adults (18-64 years old) drawn from the Canadian Community Health Survey (n=302,683). The mental health conditions under study included: major depressive episodes in the past year, depressive thoughts in the past month, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, self-reported mental health status and suicidal thoughts in the past year.

Percent and 95% Confidence Intervals of Six Adverse Mental Health Outcomes Reported for Each Level of Household Food Insecurity (Unadjusted Prevalence).

Findings showed a food insecurity gradient across each of the adverse mental health outcomes – the odds of reporting an outcome increased with the severity of food insecurity. The odds of reporting mental health conditions among adults in severely food insecure households were very high (25.5% to 41.1%, depending on the condition), and the researchers calculated that a decrease of between 8.1% and 16.0% in the reporting of these mental health outcomes would accrue if those who were severely food insecure became food secure. The results of this study suggest that macro-level policy interventions that reduce the severity of food insecurity, particularly severe food insecurity, could reduce mental ill-health burden.

Provinces and Territories Opting Out of Measuring Household Food Insecurity

In 2015 and 2016, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Yukon chose not to monitor food insecurity. As a result, there will be no national estimates for those years. It is critical that every province and territory measure household food security in order to make evidence-based policy decisions about this important public health problem

Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) The inclusion of the Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM) on the annual cycles of Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) has enabled the monitoring of food insecurity in Canada. However, the HFSSM is not always mandatory. We recently learned that the measurement of food insecurity on the CCHS was optional in 2015 and 2016, and Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Yukon opted out. As a result, it is not possible to accurately estimate the prevalence of household food insecurity nationally for those years. The most recent national estimate available is from 2012 when the HFSSM was mandatory for all jurisdictions. We know that food insecurity rose significantly between 2007 and 2012, but cannot reliably determine whether the problem has gotten better or worse since then. The next national assessment of food insecurity will be in 2017. This gap in data impedes research on trends in food insecurity and the impact of public policies on the problem. It is critical that provinces and territories participate in all cycles of measurement.


Ontario

OntarioOntario is the most populous jurisdiction in Canada and home to the single largest number of food insecure households. Ontario’s decision to opt out of measurement has serious consequences for analyses of trends in food insecurity, limiting our ability to see the impact of policy changes over this period. The lack of data for 2015 and 2016 also has ramifications for the assessment of the recently announced Ontario Food Security Strategy and Ontario Basic Income Pilot. Until now, Ontario has participated in monitoring in every cycle since the inclusion of the module on the CCHS in 2005.


Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and LabradorIn addition to opting out of measurement in 2015 and 2016, Newfoundland and Labrador opted out in 2013 and 2014, meaning there are no data for this province beyond 2012. A substantial decrease in food insecurity among social assistance recipients in Newfoundland and Labrador was observed between 2007 and 2012, following the rollout of their poverty reduction strategy in 2006. However, due to the lack of data it is not possible to examine the impact of subsequent policy changes.


Yukon

YukonYukon is the only territory to have ever opted out of food insecurity monitoring on the CCHS, having previously opted out in 2005, 2013, and 2014. From the most recent estimates from 2012, 17.1% of households in Yukon are food insecure and 1 in 5 children are affected. But, we have no way of knowing whether this problem has gotten better or worse since then.


Regular monitoring of household food insecurity is fundamental to population research and evidence-based policy decision making in Canada. The lack of comprehensive, up-to-date statistics is detrimental to efforts to address this serious public health problem. Food insecurity measurement needs to become mandatory annually in all provinces and territories.

For more information on the measurement of food insecurity in Canada, please see our Monitoring Food Insecurity in Canada fact sheet and our annual reports.

Upcoming webinar – How does food insecurity relate to health and what are the implications for health care providers? (May 18/17 1:00-2:30 EST)

Upcoming webinar - How does food insecurity relate to health and what are the implications for health care providers? (May18/17 1:00-2:30 EST)

On May 18, 2017 from 1:00 – 2:30 pm EST, PROOF is co-hosting the third and final webinar in their series with Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada (CDPAC). To see recordings of the first two, visit: http://proof.utoronto.ca/resources/webinar/#past

Register today at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6830617413940098051. A recording of the webinar will be available afterwards.

Upcoming webinar – How does food insecurity relate to health and what are the implications for health care providers?

Please join PROOF and CDPAC for the final webinar in their series on household food insecurity. In this webinar, we will examine evidence of the impact of food insecurity on individuals’ mental and physical health and the financial burden food insecurity poses for our healthcare system. Although food insecurity is associated with dietary compromise, its effects on health extend beyond those associated with poor nutrition. We will discuss the complex relationship between food insecurity and health, considering the evidence of a bidirectional relationship for some conditions and disentangling the relation between food insecurity and malnutrition. Finally, we will examine the implications of this body of research for practice, particularly considering the challenges that arise in providing care to patients who are experiencing food insecurity.

Presenters:
Valerie Tarasuk, PhD, Professor, University of Toronto and PROOF principal investigator
Lynn McIntyre, MD, MHSc, FRCPC, FCAHS, Professor Emerita, University of Calgary and PROOF investigator
Carlota Basualdo-Hammond, MSc, MPH, RD, Executive Director, Nutrition Services, Alberta Health Services

Upcoming webinar – Who is vulnerable to household food insecurity and what does this mean for policy and practice? (April 13/17 1:00-2:30 EST)

Upcoming webinar - Who is vulnerable to household food insecurity and what does this mean for policy and practice? (April 13/17 1:00-2:30 EST)

On April 13, 2017 from 1:00 – 2:30 pm EST, PROOF is co-hosting a webinar with Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada (CDPAC) on what drives vulnerability to household food insecurity in Canada

Register today at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7992737431982570755. A recording of the webinar will be available afterwards.

Who is vulnerable to household food insecurity and what does this mean for policy and practice?

Please join PROOF and CDPAC for a second webinar on household food insecurity. In this webinar, we will delve into the question of what drives vulnerability to household food insecurity in Canada. Drawing on the wealth of Canadian data collected during more than a decade of food insecurity monitoring, we will examine the social and economic circumstances of food insecure households and look at what has been found to underpin changes in household food insecurity status over time. We will also discuss the relationship between food insecurity and health, considering the evidence of a bidirectional relationship for some conditions. The interpretation of these findings by Dietitians of Canada in their recent Position Statement and Recommendations – Addressing Household Food Insecurity in Canada will also be shared as a platform for policy and practice recommendations.

Presenters:
Valerie Tarasuk, PhD, Professor, University of Toronto and PROOF principal investigator
Lynn McIntyre, MD, MHSc, FRCPC, FCAHS, Professor Emerita, University of Calgary and PROOF investigator
Pat Vanderkooy, MSc, RD, Public Affairs Manager, Dietitians of Canada

New Research & Factsheet: Food Procurement, Food Skills & Food Insecurity

PROOF has recently published a new study in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, looking at the extent that food skills and garden use relate to household food insecurity in Canada. This new PROOF factsheet summarizes some of the findings from this study.

Listen to PROOF Principal Investigator, Valerie Tarasuk, discuss the findings and importance of this research.(5 minutes) [Download MP3]

For more information about this research, please see: Huisken, A., Orr, S. K., & Tarasuk, V. (2017). Adults’ food skills and use of gardens are not associated with household food insecurity in Canada. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 107(6), e526-e532. [Abstract]

To see our other factsheets on food insecurity in Canada, visit http://proof.utoronto.ca/resources/fact-sheets.

Download Factsheet: [PDF] [PNG]

Click to download PDF
Fact Sheet: Food Procurement, Food Skills & Food Insecurity

Upcoming: Food Banks? A Panel Discussion – Toronto, Ontario (April 6, 2017)

Banner: Food Banks. What do they do now? What can they do in the near future? What can’t they do? What can we do?


UPDATE: The panel discussion will now also be livestreamed at: https://ryecast.ryerson.ca/78/live/1601.aspx, starting at 7:00pm ET. A recording of the event will also be available afterwards.


Thursday, April 6, 2017
6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Ryerson University, 80 Gould Street, Rogers Communications Centre, RCC204

Join as a panel of outstanding experts and activists talk through the complex pros, cons, and to-dos of food banks. All points of view welcomed and respected.

Welcome by:
Fiona Yeudall, Director, Ryerson Centre for Studies in Food Security

Chaired by:
Councillor Joe Mihevc, Chair, Toronto Board of Health

With guest panelists:
Andy Fisher, Author of the controversial new book from MIT Press: Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups. Available April 21, 2017. Pre-order the book now from Amazon.ca
Valerie Tarasuk, Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, Principal Investigator, PROOF
Cecilia Rocha, Director, Ryerson School of Nutrition
Ryan Noble, Executive Director, North York Harvest Food Bank
Merryn Maynard, Program Coordinator, Meal Exchange

Closing Remarks by:
Melana Roberts, Chair, Toronto Youth Food Policy Council

Hosted by:
Ryerson University’s School Of Nutrition and Centre For Studies in Food Security
Endorsed by:
New College Global Food Equity Initiative, North York Harvest Food Bank, Toronto Food Policy Council, Toronto Youth Food Policy Council, Stop Community Food Centre

Poster: Food Banks. What do they do now? What can they do in the near future? What can’t they do? What can we do?

Upcoming webinar – Food Insecurity Measurement in Canada: Interpreting the Statistics (Feb 8/17 1:00-2:30 EST)

Upcoming webinar - Food Insecurity Measurement in Canada: Interpreting the Statistics (Feb 8/17 1:00-2:30 EST)

On February 8, 2017 from 1:00 – 2:30 pm EST, PROOF is co-hosting a webinar with Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada (CDPAC) on food insecurity measurement and statistics. For more information and to register, please visit: http://www.cdpac.ca/content.php?doc=369. A recording of the webinar will be available afterwards.

Food Insecurity Measurement in Canada: Interpreting the Statistics

Food insecurity – the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints – is increasingly recognized as a serious public health problem. Since 2005, household food insecurity has been systematically monitored in Canada through the Canadian Community Health Survey run by Statistics Canada.

The growing use of these data by public health, community agencies, research centres, and social policy groups has been critical in building awareness and understanding of the problem of food insecurity. However, inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the reporting of data on food insecurity mask the scale and severity of this problem. The accurate and effective use of Canada’s monitoring data hinges on a clear understanding of what exactly is being measured on the Canadian Community Health Survey, what it means, and how to interpret the food insecurity statistics available on Statistics Canada’s website (CANSIM). Anyone interested in using food insecurity statistics or learning about how food insecurity is monitored in Canada is encouraged to join.

Presenters:
Valerie Tarasuk, PhD – Professor at University of Toronto and principal investigator of PROOF
Suzanne Galesloot, MSA, RD – Public Health Nutrition Provincial Lead at Alberta Health Services
Tracy Woloshyn, RD – Public Health Nutritionist at York Region Public Health

Basic Income Can Reduce Food Insecurity and Improve Health

This article was originally published in the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine News and the University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health News November 16, 2016.


By: Jim Oldfield, Writer, Office of Communications, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

Advancing Food Insecurity Research in Canada conference logoOntario plans to roll out a pilot project on guaranteed annual income early next year. The goal of the project, according a recent report by former senator and current master of Massey College Hugh Segal, is to test whether a basic income can produce better outcomes for recipients and lower costs for government than the province’s current mix of social programs.

Two of the pilot’s key measures will be health and health care costs, and Segal’s report ties both to the growing problem of food insecurity, among other factors. Professor Valerie Tarasuk was one of many experts Segal consulted for his report. She is a professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the Department of Nutritional Sciences, and she has studied food insecurity for over 20 years.

Ahead of this week’s food insecurity conference at U of T, Tarasuk spoke with Faculty of Medicine writer Jim Oldfield about Segal’s report, the devastating effects of food insecurity and how quickly a guaranteed income can make a difference for people who need it.

What was your reaction when you read Segal’s report?
One of the really wonderful things about Hugh’s report is that it names food insecurity as an outcome to look at. That’s fantastic, because research by us and others shows that low income means a greater probability of food insecurity. Moreover, the more extreme the food insecurity, the more toxic it is for health. So by the time a person is living with severe food insecurity they’re burning up well over double the health care dollars of the rest of us. Food security is absolutely intertwined with income, and both are very tightly tied to health care spending. There are four million people in this country living with some form of food insecurity; it’s a major public health problem, so I’m very glad it gets attention in this report.

How does food insecurity affect health?
Well, it’s devastating for mental health and physical health, and that’s true across the life cycle. Adults with chronic diseases like diabetes or HIV are less able to manage their conditions. They’re more prone to complications and negative outcomes, and they have higher mortality rates. Household food insecurity affects one in six Canadian children, and as result they are at much higher risk for asthma, depression and other diseases. Although we’ve only monitored food insecurity systematically in Canada for 10 years, it’s been a persistent problem much longer than that. The encouraging thing is that a lot of good evidence shows it doesn’t need to be that way.

Valerie Tarasuk

So what would a basic income do for food insecurity?
A basic income won’t let people fall below a certain income level, and it very effectively limits food insecurity. The connection on that is very strong. Studies have also shown that improving incomes produces very definite changes in food security over a short period of time. In Newfoundland and Labrador, food insecurity among social assistance recipients dropped by almost half over five years, starting within a year of increases to income supports. Our group PROOF recently found that food insecurity went from 40 to 16 per cent among low-income adults who became eligible for old-age security at 65. So a secure and decent income can largely cut off food insecurity — and to a degree that increases in minimum wage, subsidized housing or small increases to welfare payments don’t do.

What are the arguments against basic income?
There are two big criticisms of basic income. One is that we can’t afford it, and the other is that it creates a disincentive to work. Yes, it will cost money, but it’s important for Ontarians to get their heads around the trade-offs. Given the effects of food insecurity on health, I think we can’t afford not to do it. That said, we need more data on exactly how a basic income can reduce health-care and administrative social assistance costs, whether it limits encounters with the justice system and how it affects kids’ performance in school, among other things. Hopefully the pilot will answer some of those questions. As for the disincentive to work, that’s debatable. But it’s important to know that over half of families living with food insecurity in Ontario have jobs — the problem is with the quality and security of their employment and income. We have an opportunity in Ontario to make an important choice on the issue of basic income, and I hope the debate on it over the next few weeks reflects a true understanding of its costs and benefits.

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
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