Food Guide is not for low-income Canadians

0
63

Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

Canada has a new food guide produced by Health Canada’s Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion. It claims to represent the best scientific approach to healthy eating and nutrition possible, developed solely for nutrition needs, not representing the concerns of any special interest group such as beef or pork producers. But, for all its claims of firmness in concern for healthy and nutritious eating, there are some questions that need to be addressed.
The new guide doesn’t give portion sizes, but recommends that processed foods be avoided. Is this because some processed foods are high in calories or because they are high in sodium? Are baked goods processed foods? Some processed foods fit into neither the high calorie nor high sodium category. Also, what about food security? At one time, the recommendation was that 75% of food consumed should be grown within 150 kilometres of your locality and much of the remainder be of Canadian origin. However, this version values fruits and vegetables that are not locally available year-round in Canada.
Also, missing from the guide is any mention of the cost of food. We know food costs in remote northern communities are two to three times that of southern Canada. But that is not the most significant issue – poverty is. Canada has a poverty rate of 16.8% (one in six people), much higher than the average for Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries (i.e., countries with living standards comparable to Canada). For people living in poverty, pressure on their limited income result in a smaller quantity of healthy food and reduces the quality of food purchases. This in turn has significant health issues resulting in lost work time, higher health costs and lower life expectancy. These results are compounded in the children of families in lower income brackets. But any person or family attempting to eat according to the latest food guide better have an income that puts them in what the government calls the “middle class”.
The food guide is not much more than a glossy government flyer unless it’s accompanied by real action to help the one-in-six of our citizens
living in poverty. This could include school lunch programs, guaranteed minimum incomes, financial allowances for people living in northern communities and abolishing the need for food banks by ensuring every person has access to healthy, nutritional meals. Anything less means the food guide is another government failure and waste of money. What Canada needs is firm policies and actions that end the threat of malnutrition. This should be the real purpose of the Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Only then can the Office claim to be really helping Canadians understand and participate in the consumption of healthy and nutritious food.