Food, diet and nutrition in food insecure populations

Poverty constrains food selection, acquisition, and consumption. When shopping for food, individuals living in severely food-insecure households are most likely to make food purchasing decisions solely based on price, foregoing preference, quality and health considerations. Among the most vulnerable groups like homeless youth, very high rates of severe food insecurity accompany risky and dangerous food acquisition strategies (e.g. theft and trading sex for food).

In Canada, like in other high-income countries, households with higher incomes and/or higher levels of education consume more nutritious foods, while individuals living in lower-income or food insecure households consume lower quality, less nutritious diets. But, from a public health perspective, it is important to know the degree to which these eating patterns impact nutritional health. In 2008, the first national study in Canada to examine the relationship between household food insecurity and nutrient intake demonstrated that household food insecurity is associated with diets that are inadequate to support health in adults and adolescents. It has been suggested that inequalities in nutrition may play a role in income-related health disparities whereby low-income Canadians suffer increased rates of disease and shorter life expectancy.  

While research reveals some differences in food intake patterns among children living in food-insecure households, these do not appear to be related to higher rates of nutrient inadequacy.

The following articles present research on food, diet and nutrition in food insecure populations:

Household income, food insecurity and nutrition in Canadian youth.
Mark S, Lambert M, O’Loughlin J, Gray-Donald K.
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2012;103(2):94-9.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

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.

Affordability of a nutritious diet for income assistance recipients in Nova Scotia (2002-2010).
Williams P, Watt CG, Amero M, Anderson BJ, Blum I, Green-LaPierre R, Johnson CP, Reimer DE.
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2012; 103(3): 183.

Food Management behaviours in food-insecure, lone mother-led families.
Sim SM, Glanville NT, McIntyre L.
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research 2011; 72(3): 123-129.

Complexity of food preparation and food security status in low-income young women.
Engler-Stringer R, Stringer B, Haines T.
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research 2011; 7(3): 133-136.

Food purchasing and food insecurity among low-income families in Toronto.
Dachner N, Ricciuto L, Kirkpatrick S, Tarasuk V.
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research 2010; 71(3):e50-e56.

Nutrition inequities in Canada.
Tarasuk V,  Fitzpatrick S,  Ward, H.
Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism 2010: 35(2):172-179.

Food deprivation is integral to the ‘hand to mouth’ existence of homeless youth in Toronto.
Tarasuk V,  Dachner N,  Poland B,  Gaetz S.
Public Health Nutrition 2009; 12(9): 1437-1442.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

Food Insecurity Is Associated with Nutrient Inadequacies among Canadian Adults and Adolescents.
Kirkpatrick S, Tarasuk V.
Journal of Nutrition 2008; 138: 604–612.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

Improving the nutritional status of food insecure women: First, let them eat what they like.
McIntyre L, Tarasuk V, Li YJ.
Public Health Nutrition 2007; 10(11):1288-1298.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

The food environment of street youth.
Hamelin AM, Mercier C, Bedard A.
Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition 2007;1(3):69-98.

Low-income women’s dietary intakes are sensitive to the depletion of household resources over a month.
Tarasuk V, McIntyre L, Li J.
Journal of Nutrition 2007;137:1980-1987.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

Determinants of variation in food cost and availability in two socioeconomically contrasting neighbourhoods of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Latham J, Moffat T.
Health and Place 2007; 13(1): 273-287.

‘Managing’ homeless youth in Toronto: mismanaging food access and nutritional well-being.
Gaetz S,  Dachner N, Kirkpatrick S, Tarasuk V.
Canadian Review of Social Policy 2006; 58:43-61.

Homeless youth in Toronto are nutritionally vulnerable.
Tarasuk V, Dachner N,  Li J.
Journal of Nutrition 2005; 135: 1926-1933.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

Do low-income lone mothers compromise their nutrition to feed their children?
McIntyre L, GlanvilleNT, Raine KD, Dayle JB, AndersonB, Battaglia N.
Canadian Medical Association Journal 2003;168 (6): 686-691.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

An examination of at-home food preparation activity among low-income, food-insecure women.
McLaughlin C, Tarasuk V, Krieger N.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2003;103(11):1506-12.

Characterization of household food insecurity in Quebec: food and feelings.
Hamelin AM, Beaudry M, Habicht J-P.
Social Science & Medicine 2002;54(1):119-32.