Food is ubiquitous and along with it is occasional hunger. We can all relate to having an inability to concentrate or stay awake after skipping breakfast, but chronic hunger is different.
Hunger is hurting our kids. The experience of food insecurity is characterized by missed meals and poor diets¹, but we’re just starting to understand its long-term effects on children and youth. There are links between hunger and diet related health problems like obesity², iron deficiency² and diabetes³. Perhaps surprisingly, new research suggests that food insecurity is also associated with pain³,⁴, substance abuse⁵ and progressively worse mental health, including most notably suicide ideation⁶.
The number of children who live in Canada and are at risk for chronic hunger will always shock me: more than one million children – or 1 in every 5 – live in a household experiencing food insecurity.¹ And in my position as executive director of President’s Choice Children’s Charity, I’ve seen that information met with dismissive disbelief. How can there be hungry children here in Canada?
It’s a devastating truth; there are chronically hungry kids in a country as prosperous as Canada. The repercussions of which are felt acutely by children at risk, but they also effect Canadians unaware of the price they pay. Healthcare costs for moderately food insecure households can be 49% higher, and up to 121% higher for households experiencing extreme food security⁸. The impact on our shared future is harder to measure. How can we measure the lost potential of a child overcome by the burden of hunger?
At President’s Choice Children’s Charity, we’re in a privileged position to rally Canadians to join our mission: the charity aims to feed one million children, every year. We’re also privileged to have the support of Loblaw Companies Ltd., and its vendors, colleagues, and customers. This September (2022), the company is launching its new Million Hungry Minds campaign. We’re especially excited about the inclusion of a new, limited-edition grocery tote, with 100% of the purchase price from every sale being donated to President’s Choice Children’s Charity. Get yours between September 30 and October 2.
About Lisa Battistelli
Lisa Battistelli joined President’s Choice Children’s Charity in 2006 as a coordinator and progressed to lead finance and operations, then in 2017 she became the charity’s Executive Director. Marking the apex of a career that began in her father’s grocery store more than 30 years ago. She feels a great sense of pride as she reflects on how far the charity has come; to date President’s Choice Children’s Charity has nurtured the wellbeing of more than six million children across Canada, and launched its first signature food program, Power Full Kids. Looking into the future, Lisa sees the charity doing more, and aims to feed one million children, every year. For more information, visit www.pcchildrenscharity.ca
1. Tarasuk V, Mitchell A. (2020) Household food insecurity in Canada, 2017-18. Toronto: Research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity (PROOF). Retrieved from https://proof.utoronto.ca/
2. Skalicky A, Meyers AF, Adams WG, Yang Z, Cook JT, Frank DA. Child food insecurity and iron deficiency anemia in low-income infants and toddlers in the United States. Matern Child Health J. 2006 Mar;10(2):177-85. doi: 10.1007/s10995-005-0036-0. PMID: 16328705. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16328705/
3. Hutchinson, J., & Tarasuk, V. (2022). The relationship between diet quality and the severity of household food insecurity in Canada. Public Health Nutrition, 25(4), 1013-1026. doi: 10.1017/S1368980021004031. Retrieved from
4. Men, F., Urquia, M.L. & Tarasuk, V. Examining the relationship between food insecurity and causes of injury in Canadian adults and adolescents. BMC Public Health 21, 1557 (2021). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-11610-1.
5. Fei Men, Marcelo L. Urquia and Valerie Tarasuk, Pain-driven emergency department visits and food insecurity: a cross-sectional study linking Canadian survey and health administrative data, January 11, 2022 10 (1) E8-E18; Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.9778/cmajo.20210056
6. Fei Men, Benedikt Fischer, Marcelo L. Urquia, Valerie Tarasuk, Food insecurity, chronic pain, and use of prescription opioids, SSM - Population Health, Volume 14, 2021, 100768, ISSN 2352-8273. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2021.100768
7. Men F, Elgar FJ, Tarasuk VFood insecurity is associated with mental health problems among Canadian youth, J Epidemiol Community Health 2021;75:741-748. Retrieved from https://jech.bmj.com/content/75/8/741
8. Valerie Tarasuk, Joyce Cheng, Claire de Oliveira, Naomi Dachner, Craig Gundersen, Paul Kurdyak, Association between household food insecurity and annual health care costs, CMAJ Oct 2015, 187 (14) E429-E436; DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.150234. Retrieved from https://www.cmaj.ca/content/187/14/E429