About 19 per cent of N.B. households experience food insecurity, says nutritional scientist

·2 min read
Food insecurity doesn't just mean not having enough food, it also includes those who are eating poor quality food. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Food insecurity doesn't just mean not having enough food, it also includes those who are eating poor quality food. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

More New Brunswick households are dealing with food insecurity and it may not just be the people you think.

Valerie Tarasuk, who teaches nutritional science at the University of Toronto, said about 19 per cent of New Brunswick households are food insecure.

She defines this as any home that has difficulty buying the food they need, which can include not buying enough food, or buying lower quality food.

Nicole Ireland/CBC
Nicole Ireland/CBC

And it's not just people who rely upon social assistance for their income.

"About half of the people who are food insecure, households that are food insecure, are relying on salaries or wages," said Tarasuk.

"We've got people in the workforce but unable to make ends meet."

Struggling to feed yourself and your family has other health effects beyond nutritional issues.

"If you've got prescription medications … if there's any fee attached to them, people who are food insecure are very likely to not be filling those prescriptions, or not taking them as prescribed," said Tarasuk.

Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada
Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada

Tarasuk said food insecurity can also take a toll on someone's physical and mental health leading to a higher rate of depression, anxiety disorders, infectious diseases and more.

"We found that food insecure people are overrepresented in terms of emergency department visits and among the things that they're more likely to show up with are injuries," said Tarasuk.

While there has been a lot of thought given into how to tackle food insecurity, Tarasuk said the only real solution is giving the food insecure more money to spend on food.

She said food banks aren't the solution, because the number of people who are food insecure in the province is seven times higher than the number of people using food banks.

Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada
Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada

She said she is happy to see governments offer some real help, like increasing the minimum wage and decreasing childcare costs.

"It's fantastic that New Brunswick has implemented those things," said Tarasuk.

"I can't believe that we're not going to see a positive impact on food insecurity with those measures."

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