Nutritionist and food-security expert Valerie Tarasuk recalls the meeting, early on in a five-year-long research project, when she and her fellow researchers reached the point of mind-numbing exhaustion that made civil discourse nearly impossible. It had become clear to them that the way Canadians talked about the prevalence of hunger—mostly framed in terms of food bank use—was missing the point. They needed some way to communicate the severity of the problem as they saw it. But would the public pay any attention to a purely descriptive report based on data gleaned from the “bowels of Stats Canada”?
The answer, it turned out, was yes.
Later that year, Tarasuk and her team released the 2011 Household Food Security in Canada Report. It revealed that, on average, one in eight households in Canada was experiencing some level of food insecurity—a total of 3.9 million individuals, a quarter of whom were children. It also “outed,” as Tarasuk puts it, the geographic and racial inequity of the problem. Rates of food insecurity in Nunavut, for example, were three times what they were in Ontario, with one in two children in the territory living with food insecurity. (Tarasuk also points out that this is certainly an underestimate since the the survey doesn’t include people who live on reserve, or people who have no fixed address.)
And, crucially, it made the news. The Canadian Press picked up the story, and it was covered on Global, CTV, in the Huffington Post, and in Metro commuter papers. Finally, Canadians were talking about hunger the right way—as a matter of food security.
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