Food insecurity in Indigenous communities an urgent public health crisis: expert

A new study says First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children suffer disproportionately from food insecurity to the point that it’s an urgent public health crisis.

Food insecurity is the inability or uncertainty of being able to consume a diet of adequate quality or quantity “in socially acceptable ways.” The most recent data from Statistics Canada shows that in 2021, 12.9 per cent of the general population suffered from food insecurity, while in Indigenous communities, that number is almost double at 24.1 per cent.

Study lead author and pediatrics specialist Dr. Anna Banerji says in some remote Indigenous communities in the North, there are children who don’t have food for entire days, which experts call “severe food insecurity.”

“To some of these communities, the cost of food is really, really unbelievable, or just astronomically high compared to places like Toronto or in the south,” she said.

“And there have been studies which have shown in the past that kids who are from food insecure homes compared to food secure homes were stunted.”

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The study says colonization is a driving factor, because it disrupted Indigenous sources of healthy food, such as traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering. As well, intergenerational trauma from residential schools fuels poverty that makes it hard to afford nutritious food.

The study says solutions include re-establishing traditional foods and community gardens, as well as government funding of school-based food programs.

-With files from Nicole Ireland, The Canadian Press.

This article contains details that may be distressing to some readers. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society operates a 24-hour crisis line to support survivors and families across the country. The Lamathut Crisis Line can be reached by calling 1-800-721-0066.

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