Exposing the Predominant Factor Behind Food Insecurity
Charitable food programs offer the chance for low-income households and individuals to acquire the food they need to support for themselves and for their family. Food banks are deemed in the media and in society as a productive solution to end food insecurity and food waste by using methods such as donating food from private sectors to food banks instead of it being wasted. However this paper will state that reducing food waste by donating food products to food banks does not address the issue for food insecurity in Canada. It is questionable to the amount of wasted food that is actually being donated to food banks as well as how much food is actually being dispersed to each household and/or individual per visit. (Dachner & Tarasuk, 2017) Although food bank numbers have been increasing within years in Canada, food insecurity is still a problem due to the most dominant social determinant of health, which is income.
Discussion: Income and Food insecurity
Income is claimed to be the most important social determinant of health. (Raphael, 2016, p. 43) Income can determine whether individuals will have adequate living/working conditions and access to a nutritious diet and housing. Failure to achieve a stable income can cause detrimental health problems such as cardiovascular disease, mental illness, and even premature death. (Raphael, 2010) When individuals experience a high level of income, they experience safe living and working conditions and the ability to buy food. In contrast, individuals that are experiencing low income are limited by their choices, accumulating stress which can determine health behaviours such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, diet, etc. (Benezeval, Judge, & Whitehead, 1995) If public policies are put into place to distribute income adequately to low income households, all areas of the social determinants of health; especially food security can provide healthy lifestyles for each household(Raphael, 2016)
The media tends to focus on preventative ways to reduce illness and disease but unfortunately, many people cannot afford to obtain these resources for a healthy life. Food security is one of the social determinants of health that relies on income due to the state in which individuals have access to a sufficient diet quality and food item quantity. (Raphael, 2016, p. 68) Food insecurity causes many health problems. Individuals who are food-insecure can suffer from dietary deficiencies of protein, iron, vitamins A and C, zinc, etc. and are more likely to develop chronic disease and even depression, which can make managing illness more difficult for these individuals. (Raphael, 2016, p. 68) Therefore, food insecurity should be taken into account.
Discussion: Food banks Ineffectively Address Food-Insecurity
In society and in the media, food banks are thought of as a way to address and solve the problem of food-insecure individuals and households. Private sectors are attempting to eliminate food waste by giving away leftovers to charitable food donation services. (Dahner & Tarasuk, 2017) However, it seems that only a minor percentage of food waste is being diverted to food bank donations and since food banks are already sensitive, they cannot accept a surplus of food due to a lack of funds and volunteers. (Dahner & Tarasuk, 2017) If food banks did accept a surplus of food, they would still need to acquire volunteers to sort, package, and store the donated food products as well as pay a costly disposal fee if food isn’t edible. (Dahner & Tarasuk, 2017) Unfortunately food banks are only a short-term solution for food-insecure households since they do not have flexible hours of operation and only provide each household a certain amount of food that might not even last for a long period of time. (Dachner & Tarasuk, 2017, para. 7) Individuals with food insecurity can still accumulate stress as to whether or not food would run out before they had enough money to pay for it, which can result in serious health concerns. Therefore, food banks do not address food-insecure individuals since they will still be unable to obtain food needs independently as food-insecurity is correlated to income.
Food insecurity and households
In 2015, 852,137 Canadians took advantage of food banks and about 36 percent of these users were children. (Raphael, 2016, p.70) The statistics claim that children are not getting enough nutrition in their daily lives, which can influence a child to develop behavioural, emotional, and academic problems (Raphael, 2016, p. 69) In 2012, Raphael (2016) stated that Canada had an estimated 12.6 percent of households that were experiencing food insecurity as well as 15.6 percent of households with children. According to this study, households with more children require more assistance in meeting their basic needs. In 1994, a study was directed to show the impact of food insecurity and single female parent-led families. According to the study, these households were eight times more likely than other households to report hungry children. Raphael (2016, p. 71) Women are often left with the choice to withdraw from eating as long as their family is provided with an adequate amount of food. (Raphael, 2016) Income is a powerful indicator in food insecurity, especially in households with children and public policies need to be put on a podium so that income inequality can be overcome and children and their families can obtain the nutritious diet they desperately need.
Public Policy in Canada
Canada is known to be a wealthy country due to its market run economy. Income is determined by employment in the market sector in order for individuals to obtain resources related to the social determinants of health. Due to the wealth Canada holds, it is important to question how this country hasn’t provided enough public policies for income distribution for low-income counterparts. Unfortunately, market economies take total reign and display income inequality to Canadians by decreasing the number of benefits, programs, and services which dictate to how much income an individual is capable of making. (Raphael, 2016, p.36) If Canadians become more aware of the way that the government works, they can be influenced to force change upon public policies, creating jobs and a stable income for households.
The verdict is clear, income influences food insecurity and public policies in Canada are the factors that influence income. If Canadians become more aware of the social determinants of health and how income plays a huge part in being provided with a healthy lifestyle, public policies can be placed on a podium, increasing income equality to Canadians and therefore, increasing food security within households. Although food banks are a good short-term solution for food-insecure households, these organizations are ineffective at allowing individuals to seek their own food needs independently by using their income. In closing, if Canadians realize the impact that the market economy has on our health, the better we can change public policies in order to increase income distribution to food insecure households, providing better health in the long run.