Canada's social safety net missing the hungry

The 1994 national Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth included questions about whether children had experienced hunger. After reviewing the data, Dr. Lynn McIntyre and colleagues report that of the more than 13,000 households surveyed, 1.2% reported going hungry because of lack of money for food. When extrapolated to the overall Canadian population, this figure represents 57 000 Canadian families fighting hunger.

The study found that parents routinely sacrificed their own health in order to provide for their child, which resulted in the overall health of the parent or primary caregiver being poorer. Parents reported coping with a lack of money for food by fasting, reducing food quantity and variety, or seeking help from relatives, food banks or friends. Few applied to social programs.

In a related commentary, Dr. Laird Birmingham questions how Canadians, with a mean income higher than most other countries, can allow children to go hungry. As physicians, we must be more suspicious of hunger, and malnutrition in our patients, writes Dr. Birmingham. As a medical community, we must make our country aware of this tragedy and give specific advice for its remedy.


Contact: Dr. Lynn Birmingham
Canadian Medical Association Journal

Page: 1

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