A Study on Food Security Among Single Parents and Elderly Populations in St. John’s: Final Report

Sarkar, Atanu and Traverso-Yepez, Martha and Gadag, Veeresh and Hunger, Kelly (2015) A Study on Food Security Among Single Parents and Elderly Populations in St. John’s: Final Report. Research Report. Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

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According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, food security is defined as “the idea that all people at all times have access (including physical, social, and economic access) to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food necessary to lead active and healthy lives.” While more than one-fifth of NL’s population does not have enough disposable income to buy the necessities like food, one in every twenty uses food banks on a regular basis. Around 60% of people who use food banks in the province are women, and the majority of the recipients are on social assistance. The senior population is another group likely to suffer from food insecurity. Many of these seniors live alone and often face multiple complex challenges in the ability to purchase and prepare healthy food. Despite this precarious situation, in comparison to other provinces, there is scarce evidence on the complex dynamics of food insecurity affecting these vulnerable populations and hinders the development and implementation of appropriate and efficient strategies. We intended to study the ways, and extent food insecurity affects food-related practices among the elderly population and single parents living in St John’s, NL. We used the mixed method approach, including the key informant (KI) interviews, followed by face-to-face survey interviews with a representative sample of 50 single parents and 48 seniors (over the age of 65 years). We first conducted KI interviews of government officials and service providers who deal with such vulnerable population. Following this, we conducted a survey. The survey questions were based on the validated questionnaire for the general population, developed by the Statistics Canada, during their latest Canadian Community Health Survey in 2012. In order to reach out to the participants, we partnered with Single Parents Association of Newfoundland and Senior Resource Centre NL and followed convenient sampling. The KI interviews and the additional comments from the survey respondents reveal that there is a growing trend in the consumption of processed/semi-processed or take-out foods, particularly among the single parents. Cooking skills and practices have markedly decreased, particularly among the single parents and further motivates to buy processed/semi-processed or take-out foods. Single parents use food banks more than the seniors. For seniors, mobility and physical disability are the major issues for a regular visit to groceries and cooking. Quantitative analysis: Income wise single parents are in more disadvantageous position than seniors. While 80% of single parents earn less than $25,000/year, only 4% of them earn more than $40,000/year. For seniors, the proportions of these income brackets are 50% and 22% respectively. Single parents mostly (80%) relied upon government sponsored income support and wages/salaries (35%). The majority of the elderly persons depended on old age security and guaranteed income support (71%) and job-related retirement pensions (48%). Regular eating of healthy food was more among the elderly population than single parents. Our study shows that single parents and seniors are vulnerable to food security, however, the former population group is more vulnerable than the other. The strong association between food insecurity and low educational status (not with income) indicates the importance of awareness generation. Existing food guide can be further improvised with more inputs on quick, easy, affordable but healthy cooking recipe. The study findings strongly advocate the scaling up of social safety nets with more promotion of healthy foods and reaching out to the vulnerable communities with more practical health promotion message.

Item Type: Report (Research Report)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/12337
Item ID: 12337
Additional Information: 2013-14 Applied Research Fund
Department(s): Medicine, Faculty of > Community Health
Date: December 2015
Date Type: Publication
Geographic Location: St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
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