Defining The 4 Levels Of Food Insecurity
Recently the following 2 organizations have been releasing their annual reports dealing with Food Insecurity Issues.
These groups have been releasing some very interesting data as a result of the surveys they’ve taken.
However, today, we are going to focus on the definition of – Food Insecurity.
These groups look at 4 various grades or levels of what is considered to be Food Insecurity or Food Security Issues.
But a general description of Food Insecurity, as defined in the Food Banks Canada Hunger Count 2016 report is:
“A person or family is “food insecure” when they:
- worry they won’t be able to afford enough food;
- eat suboptimal food because they can’t afford better;
- skip meals because they are unable to purchase enough food.”
So this description sets the stage for trying to determine how you might interpret your own Food Security (Insecurity) Level.
Level 1: Food Secure
84.4% of Canadians are considered to be Food Secure.
This means that they have the financial income to go out and buy whatever food items they want at any time. There is no worry about whether there will be something to eat at the next meal or any meal.
The cost of groceries seems to be of no concern by this definition. These people don’t budget or shop specials. Price reductions and the such are of no need for them, nor do they care.
Personally, I suspect that this number is over estimated. I believe that more people actually fall into the Level 2 definition. Because the notion that almost 85% of people give no thought to the expense of groceries doesn’t seem accurate.
Level 2: Marginal Food Insecurity
5.3% of Canadians are considered to be Marginally Food Insecure.
This definition implies that they may worry about running out of food. They may also limit purchasing various food items because of a worry over the lack of money. Because if they spend that money on the food items, they may not have enough money to pay other bills.
This group, although money is tight, will rarely, if ever, go to the Food Bank for assistance. They just change their spending habits to better define the Needs vs Wants in their lives.
Barry and I probably fall into this category, however, we do not worry about running out of food. But due to the notion that because we strictly:
- budget our groceries ($160-$180/month) although most recently we have been spending $200/month
- shop reduced produce
- get meats only on sale
- carefully scour the grocery flyers for the best deals
- and change shopping patterns so that items are purchased either on sale or in season
I suspect that many of the 84.4% of Level 1 are actually Level 2 too. Because I would think that a large percentage of them also have careful shopping habits. That would be why when surveyed, they answer that they do not worry about food.
It is because of those careful shopping habits, that we also do not worry about food. That is because securing food in our budgets is a high priority. Therefore, this group always makes sure to buy groceries before buying “wants”.
And we are not buying “suboptimal” food. No, because of our careful shopping patterns, we are able to make sure that “optimal” foods are purchased. We avoid processed foods and prefer to buy fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables.
Level 3: Moderate Food Insecurity
7.6% of Canadians are considered to be Moderately Food Insecure.
This is a bigger increase in worry over the cost of food items and what should or should not be purchased. Decisions are made to reduce the quality of some food items to take advantage of lower prices.
This group is having greater difficulty in setting aside enough money for groceries. As a result, this group is more apt to start visiting Food Banks to “top up” their groceries. Their worries about having enough food to get to the end of the month is becoming more conscious. They actually are beginning to “worry” about this.
Health concerns of:
- physical abuse
- verbal abuse
- pre-existing medical conditions are getting worse due to stress.
Level 4: Severe Food Insecurity
2.7% of Canadians are considered to be at the highest risk level of Severe Food Insecurity.
This is the group of citizens who will miss meals and may even tell others it is because they are dieting. They will often just eat smaller portions and reduce their daily calorie intake.
Those with the most extreme lack of food in their budget and homes may even go several days between meals.
This group will frequently go to their local Food Banks in order to have some food items in their homes. The ability to purchase for themselves items such as meat, fresh fruits and vegetables is greatly restricted.
The notion of being able to add ground beef to spaghetti sauce is considered a luxury. Instead, if able to have a package of ground beef, it is looked at as being 1 meal while the pasta sauce (no meat) and pasta is another meal. These people really stretch things out as thin as possible.
Because their groceries are stretched so thin this is used to justify not eating breakfast or lunch. They may be able to eat something for dinner.
This group struggles with the ability to hold onto the notion of having a HOPE and a FUTURE. To them, this is out of reach. As a result, anger, despair, depression, and falling victim to addictions is a strong problem for this group. The incidents of physical abuse greatly increase in this group. Although all groups are susceptible to incidents of physical abuse, this group is very vulnerable to it occurring.
Because when you have no hope, why bother, why try.
This group of recent years is primarily made up of single adults, couples with no children, and now a growing number of older adults between the ages of 45-65.
Summing It All Up
Levels 2, 3, and 4 are a combined 15.6% of the entire Canadian population. According to Food Banks Canada, approximately 4 million people in Canada will experience some level of food insecurity this year.
Of this 4 million, there will be 340,000 who are considered to be at Level 4: Severe Food Insecurity.
But a staggering 863,492 people did use Food Banks in Canada in March 2016. That number continues to slowing rise each and every year.
And this is just a small portion of the 4 million experiencing Food Insecurity Issues. Not everyone who meets the varying levels of Food Insecurity will use Food Banks. They may feel:
- that they do not want,
- or even be able to access a Food Bank even if desired.
Although children are still a whopping 36% of Food Bank users, this number should be consistently dropping over the next few years. This in due in huge part to the increase of Child Tax Benefits being paid out to Canadian families.
As some families are easily receiving over $2,000 a month in Child Tax Benefits, this in combination with any other sources of income, makes Food Bank use unnecessary.
That is because these families can now go and purchase their own fresh fruits/vegetables and meats. As they move away from the unhealthy food choices that Food Banks are handing out, Canadian children will have their health and well being improved.
The largest group that is still in critical risk is of course the singles, or couples with no children.
What Level Are You And Your Family At?
Now that we’ve defined the various levels of Food Insecurity, what level do you consider your family to be at?
Are you like Barry and I and although you do not worry about food, you are a strict, frugal shopper? You have the skills to use the least amount of grocery money, but still have the most food possible?
Your Food Budget is a high priority and is second only to your housing? As a result, you do not consider yourself to “worry” about food.
Or, perhaps, you are at Level 3 or 4 and food is considered a precious item in your home.
Comment below and let me know what level you are at. Only together as a community can we find better solutions to the Food Insecurity Issues. Because if just going to a Food Bank was going to help, why are the numbers using them still increasing?
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