Indigenous peoples and food insecurity

Indigenous peoples refer to the original inhabitants of Canada and include Inuit, Métis and First Nations living on- and off-reserve. National data on Indigenous peoples and household food insecurity in Canada primarily come from the cycles of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS). However, the CCHS excludes individuals living on-reserve in Canada, and thus data from these surveys do not represent the experience of on-reserve Indigenous peoples, who represent just over one-third of the Indigneous peoples in Canada.

Studies of Indigenous peoples repeatedly demonstrate their extraordinary vulnerability to household food insecurity. Indigenous households in Canada are more likely than non-Indigneous households to experience the sociodemographic risk factors associated with household food insecurity (e.g. extreme poverty, single-motherhood, living in a rental accommodation, and reliance on social assistance). Even after these factors are taken into account, Indigenous households remain at a much higher risk of household food insecurity and are more likely to be severely food-insecure.

Researchers and practitioners in Indigenous communities have highlighted the distinct food procurement, preparation and distribution practices among Indigenous groups. The measure of household food insecurity used in the CCHS was developed in non-indigenous contexts and does not probe for information that may be important to Indigenous peoples’ household food insecurity. For example, household food insecurity may be related to food procurement from both market and traditional sources (e.g. fishing, hunting), and broader factors such as climate change and environmental pollution may be salient due to their impact on the availability of edible plants and animals found in nature. Research in the area of household food insecurity among Indigenous peoples that is grounded in the realities of Indigenous peoples’ culture, beliefs and political systems is vital to the development of appropriate interventions to reduce household food insecurity among this vulnerable group.

The following articles present research on the Indigenous peoples and food insecurity:

Household food insecurity and Canadian Aboriginal women’s self-efficacy in food preparation
Mercille G, Receveur O, Potvin L.
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research 2012; 73(3): 134-40.

The prevalence of food insecurity is high and the diet quality poor in Inuit communities
Huet C, Rosol R, Egeland, GM.
Journal of Nutrition 2012; 142(3): 541-547.

Food insecurity and nutrition transition combine to affect nutrient intakes in Canadian arctic communities
Egeland GM, Johnson-Down L, Cao ZR, Sheikh N, Weiler H.
Journal of Nutrition 2011; 141(9): 1746-1753.

Associations between household food insecurity and health outcomes in the Aboriginal population (excluding reserves)
Willows N, Veugelers P, Raine K, Kuhle S.
Health Reports 2011; 22(2): 1-6.
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Feeding the family during times of stress: Experience and determinants of food insecurity in an Inuit community
Ford JD, Beaumier M.
The Geographical Journal 2011; 177(1): 44-61.

Food insecurity among Inuit preschoolers: Nunavut Inuit Child Health Survey, 2007-2008.
Egeland GM, Pacey A, Cao Z, Sobol I.
Canadian Medical Association Journal 2010; 182(3): 243-248.
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Food insecurity among Inuit women exacerbated by socioeconomic stresses and climate change
Beaumier MC, Ford JD.
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2010; 101(3): 196-20.
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Prevalence and sociodemographic risk factors related to household food security in Aboriginal peoples in Canada
Willows ND, Veugelers P, Raine K, Kuhle S.
Public Health Nutrition 2008; 12(8): 1150-1156.
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Conceptualizing food security for Aboriginal people in Canada
Power EM.
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2008; 99(2): 95-97.
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Determinants of healthy eating in Aboriginal peoples in Canada
Willows N.
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2005; 96(S3): S32-S36.
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