Addressing Food Insecurity in Our Community – A Photovoice Essay
Food insecurity is an often-overlooked community health crisis that affects 1 in 8 households in Toronto, Canada. This is a growing public health concern that disproportionately affects low-income individuals who account for the majority of Toronto’s food bank clientele. There have been 914,470 food bank visits in 2018 – a 4.7% increase since 2017 and a 14% increase since 2008. Hunger is often invisible to those who do not experience it as many people tend to presume that friends, neighbours, and fellow community members have full access to food. Nonetheless, this is a grim reality for many fellow community members – even in developed countries like Canada. Using a qualitative photovoice method, I photographed a fresh produce aisle from a local grocery store to reflect reality and to symbolize how there is an excess of food in local supermarkets, yet there are still many members of the community who suffer from hunger. To explore the factors that contribute to food insecurity and its devastating effect on health, this paper analyzes the effects of: (1) rising food prices, stagnant wages, and loss of purchasing power; (2) inadequate social assistance benefits; (3) other basic necessities competing with food; (4) the inability to afford healthy foods and the consumption of unhealthy foods as compensation, and (5) poor health outcomes leading to high healthcare expenditure. Furthermore, the Population Health Promotion model is used to explore several potential community health nursing interventions to be taken at various levels within society to bring about necessary change. I propose that a community health nurse should implement change at the policy level by advocating for an increase in social assistance rates higher than 2%, as well as at the community level by establishing school nutrition programs and community gardens. Food insecurity among low-income individuals in Toronto is a preventable issue that a community health nurse can address through participatory approaches and advocacy in collaboration with policymakers, stakeholders, and community members to improve food security in the community.