Hungry for Change: A Community Where no one is Hungry
Access to healthy food is the backbone for the prevention of chronic disease and healthy growth and development of our community. How we get, as well as the types of foods we acquire is related to our health. Food security (having enough food to eat) is key to personal well-being; yet many people in Thunder Bay and surrounding areas not only have trouble getting enough to eat, costs of food can be a major burden. According to Statistics Canada, 10.2% of Thunder Bay district households reported being food insecure (inadequate access to food). Household food insecurity is a serious health issue. Individuals living with food insecurity are at an increased likelihood of having or developing chronic conditions whether physical or mental.
Food insecurity is an important social determinant of health. When income is too low, there isn’t enough money left to pay for healthy foods after paying for housing, utilities and other bills. Living with food insecurity doubles the risk of poorer health and health care costs. In the metropolitan area of Thunder Bay there are 19 food banks with an average of 3447 people accessing food banks per month (measured in 2015). For those who struggle with food insecurity, putting food on the table can be a constant struggle and source of stress. Community programs such as food banks, community kitchens, gardens are small stepping stones to food security.
Food banks are available to provide access to food to those in need. Their role also extends beyond food. They support individuals, families and communities to build capacity and work hard to create long-term solutions to food insecurity. Thousands of adults and children from the Thunder Bay area get helping hands from food banks and their donors. Despite these efforts many still go without nutritious food. Types of food donated to food banks can be less than nutritious at times; often being high-sodium, high-calorie and low-fibre foods. Heart-healthy donations go a long way towards improving diet.
Here is a list of food and non-food items that likely will be accepted by most Food Banks:
Certain food banks allow for perishable food items such as meat, dairy, produce and frozen items. Check your local food bank to see if they accept these foods. Look for items that are low in salt, sugar and fat and that are also higher in fibre.
Hunger and lack of nutritious food no doubt have long-term consequences. We have a basic need for food to provide us with energy and nutrients to allow us to live, move, grow and maintain our health. Addressing hunger in Thunder Bay by making wholesome food available to those in need is vital to ensuring healthy families and communities.
At this time of year, several initiatives to collect food donations are occurring in Thunder Bay. If you are not able to provide food items or cash donations, perhaps you can gift your time to these efforts.
Angel Fonseca is a Community Dietitian with the Diabetes Mobile Health Services Team at NorWest Community Health Centres.
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