CURA: Chronicle Herald Article

From the Chronicle Herald:

15% often go hungry in N.S., prof says; Five-year study will look at why some can’t afford to put food on the table

Studies show as many as 15 per cent of Nova Scotia households have a problem putting food on the table.

“We know . . . that some people do experience hunger,” Patricia Williams, a professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, said Wednesday.

“Some people go without for many days at a time.”

Williams is heading up a new $1 million, five-year research study looking for solutions to “food security” problems in Nova Scotia related to low incomes and other factors.

“Almost one in 15 citizens experience income-related food insecurity, and among more vulnerable groups . . . the prevalence is even higher,” said Williams, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Food Security and Policy Change at the university.

“(For) people on income assistance, it is approaching about 70 per cent in Nova Scotia.”

She recently received a Community-University Research Alliance grant for her research, which will be done in collaboration with community groups, individuals who have trouble putting enough food on their tables, local organizations and government representatives.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada provided the grant.

Williams said she and other researchers will work with communities across Nova Scotia to examine their growing and distribution systems and what impact they have on people’s access to healthy, nutritious food.

“We will be mapping the opportunities and the gaps in terms of local food systems and looking at what the underlying policies are that are driving those (policies).

“We have a very strong team that are very interested to continue to build on earlier work that we have done together and engage other organizations and individuals interested in addressing the issue of food insecurity in Nova Scotia.”

Williams’s main partner in the research project is the Nova Scotia FoodSecurity Network, comprised of 50 groups and organizations ranging from Feed Nova Scotia to the Ecology Action Centre.

Dianne Swinemar, executive director of Feed Nova Scotia in Halifax, saidfood security means different things to different people.

“To me, the true meaning of food security means that I have the option to go and select the food that I want to eat for myself and my family, where I want to go and get it. If I want to go a local farmers market, I can. If I want to go to the largest retail outlet, I can. I have the choice.

“For the thousands of people that are using food banks and other programs, they don’t have that choice.”

Williams past research has included studies on the affordability of a nutritious food basket in Nova Scotia.

“We’ve done data collection around that since 2002. . . . We have published various reports that have shown that basically families in Nova Scotia face impossible circumstances.

“For some people, it is a matter of not being able to buy nutritious food and having to make choices to buy the less healthy food, the cheaper foods that are going to fill their children’s bellies.”

( ‘Almost one in 15 citizens experience income-related food insecurity, and among more vulnerable groups . . . the prevalence is even higher.’ 

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