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food security- more then a determinant of health

food security- more then a determinant of health - FOOD...

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OPTIONS POLITIQUES MARS 2003 46 F ood used to be called a basic human need along with water, peace, shelter, education and primary health care. It has also been called a prerequisite for health. Food security is now listed among the social determinants of health. It is clearly a determinant of a lot of things— life, health, dignity, civil society, progress, justice and sustain- able development. On October 16, 2002, World Food Day, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report entitled The State of Food Insecurity in the World . The report chroni- cles the 840 million people who were undernourished in 1998-2000, of whom 11 million or 1.3 percent lived in industrialized countries. There is no further mention in the report of the 11 million, who they are, how they live, and how their undernourishment has come to be? These are the people I study—those who are hungry and food insecure in Canada. It is important to have a balanced perspective with respect to hunger in developing and developed countries. Malnutrition is synonymous with hunger in developing countries. Malnutrition is defined as the failure to achieve nutrient requirements, which can impair physical and/or mental health. Also of concern are micronutrient deficien- cies such as iron, iodine, and vitamin A. Developing coun- tries measure malnutrition through anthropometric, or growth, indicators. Stunting or low height for age is arguably the best indicator of chronic malnutrition. Sometimes absolute poverty and low per capita energy con- sumption are cited as indirect measures of hunger in the developing world. Food insecurity is the term best used to define hunger in developed societies. Food insecurity is defined as “the inability to acquire or consume an adequate diet quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or FOOD SECURITY: MORE THAN A DETERMINANT OF HEALTH Lynn McIntyre In Canada hunger became a subject of investigation in the 1980s, when food banks began to emerge and children's feeding programs in schools became more common. Even though nutritional adequacy can be regarded as the single most important determinant of health, Canada's response to food insecurity has remained community-based, ad hoc and largely focused on the provision of free or subsidized food. Since fluidity in the number of hungry families has coincided with employment dislocations and decreased access to social assistance and employment insurance, addressing the problem will require an increase in real incomes, whether through minimum wage or social assistance. Protecting the affordability of healthy foods, particularly food staples such as milk, and creating a hunger and food insecurity monitoring system to determine progress, deterioration or shifts among those affected would also help to improve the situation.
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