Food Security Essential to the Heart Health of Ontarians
“Food Security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario promotes nutritious, healthy eating in order prevent the development of heart disease which is also known to reduce the risk of other chronic diseases including diabetes and cancer. Research has shown that independent of other risk factors, diets rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains may decrease your risk of heart disease by as much as 30%. Nutrition is also important for the development and ability of our children to learn and reach educational achievements. Many Ontarians lack affordable access to basic nutritious necessities that make up a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables.
A national poll conducted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada revealed that 68% of Canadians identified price as "extremely" or "very important" when choosing which items make it into their grocery cart. Further, almost half (47%) of Canadians, regardless of where they live, report going without fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products, whole grain products, meat, fish or seafood because they are too expensive.
Food Security in Ontario
As one of two areas with almost 10% household food insecurity, northern communities face particular issues in securing adequate nutritional foods, particularly perishables, due to their relative isolation, the cost of transportation and the impact of development and agricultural policies on the capacity to grow locally.
The issue of food insecurity can be attributed to three basic causes:
The current economic crisis is making food security a more widespread and urgent issue to address – a day-to-day reality for more Ontarians, especially those in single-industry towns. Food insecurity has a direct impact on long-term health outcomes and thus healthcare costs. It is therefore a good investment for governments to deal with this issue. We are pleased with the government’s commitment to reducing poverty in Ontario and its strategy outlined in Breaking the Cycle, released on December 4, 2008. This is a welcome beginning, but much more is needed to address food security and it should be a priority in the poverty reduction strategy.
1 Analysis of Ontario sample in Cycle 2.2 of the Canadian Community Health Survey (2004) , J. Vogt and V. Tarasuk, December 18, 2007 http://www.phred-redsp.on.ca/Docs/Reports/CCHSReport/CCHS%20Cycle%202%202%20Ontario%20Nutrition%20Data%20Analysis%20Project_Full%20Report.pdf