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article imageStudy Says Kraft Dinner Not Comfort Food for People Who Must Eat it

By Bob Ewing     Aug 28, 2008 in Politics
A study published today finds that Kraft Dinner means different things to Canadians, depending on whether they are food-secure or food-insecure.
Discomforting comfort foods: stirring the pot on Kraft Dinner® and social inequality in Canada, a study that finds Kraft Dinner means different things to Canadians depending on whether they are food-secure, or food-insecure.
The study was published today in the international journal Agriculture and Human Values,
"The goal of our study was to spark a discussion, and a new understanding of poverty," says Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Investigator Melanie Rock, PhD, an Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Investigator.
"For many of us, Kraft Dinner is a comfort food. But what we heard very clearly from low-income Canadians is that Kraft Dinner is not comforting when you cannot always afford basics like milk and butter."
The study is based upon the following:
* Face-to-face interviews with 18 francophones in food-secure households in Montreal
* Individual and group interviews with 54 low-income, lone mothers in Nova Scotia
* Follow-up group interviews with 34 women in Nova Scotia (some original and somenew participants) around policy strategies from the previous study
* In-depth interviews with 24 low-income, lone mothers from Atlantic Canada who also recorded their quantitative dietary intake
* Media analysis of 155 national newspaper articles published between 1990 - 2003
"It is not acceptable that nearly 10% of Canadian households are in such financial distress that they do not always have enough money to buy food to meet their personal needs," says Rock. "The ultimate goal of this research is to spark policy reforms that will bring an end to income insecurity in Canada."
"This important research can help inform public policy strategies related to food and income insecurity," says Nancy Edwards, PhD, Scientific Director, CIHR's Institute of Population and Public Health. "There is a need to monitor the problem of food insecurity and its effects on the health of Canadians, to identify policy drivers, and to investigate options for effective policy reforms."
"Having no money for food is really scary. As my cupboards got more and more empty, I remember that feeling of not knowing where to turn," says Calgarian Lorrie Herrick.
Five years ago, Lorrie's husband Darrell fell off his bicycle while commuting to work in downtown Calgary, and suffered a brain injury that left him unable to work. With two small children at home, Lorrie found herself trying to make do on her income of $1000 a month from operating a home-based daycare.
"After we paid the rent and our bills, we had about $50 left over for food," remembers Lorrie.
"The pastor's wife at my church knew about Darrell's accident, and asked me what she could do, and I told her, we need food."
The Community Kitchen Program of Calgary provided three months of food hampers to the Herrick family. Soon afterwards, Lorrie began volunteering at Community Kitchen and today, has a full time job as the Community Kitchen Program Coordinator.
"When I see people come through our doors, I know where they have been – I have been there myself," she says. "I would like to see better support for low income families. People can't live on what they've got now."
"The Herrick family's story is one we hear too often. That's why we appreciate the insights offered by studies like this," says James McAra, CEO of the Calgary Food Bank.
"Almost half of the clients receiving Emergency Food Hampers in Calgary are the 'working poor'. They have a wage but they are unable to fully provide the necessities of life for themselves and their families. In fact, over 40% of our clients are children."
I worked for several years for an agency that operated a food bank. It is better to donate money to the agency to buy food than give items such as mac and cheese. We used to provide milk when we could but never had enough and there was always a problem with storage as the milk we received would be near its expiry date and we had no refrigeration.
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