Simple meals like Kraft Dinner can be unsatisfying for the millions of Canadians who live in a state of food insecurity, found a new study released by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.
The year-long study, published Wednesday in the international journal Agriculture and Human Values, compared the perceptions of Kraft Dinner, a popular macaroni and cheese kit, by "food-secure" Canadians against those on low incomes who are "food-insecure."
"When people are worried that they're going to run out of food, when they have to make nutritional compromises, we have a state of food insecurity. We have a real public health problem," said Melanie Rock, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary.
The study, which interviewed people in Montreal and in Atlantic Canada, found higher income Canadians believe Kraft Dinner is an acceptable donation to food banks because it is convenient as a meal in a box, easy to prepare and tasty.
'Kraft Dinner is not comforting when you cannot always afford basics like milk and butter.' — Melanie Rock, study co-author
Respondents also said because their own children liked the taste, they felt kids in lower income families would as well.
In contrast, those on lower incomes said they bought or ate Kraft Dinner as a last resort, usually near the end of the month when money has run out.
The study also pointed out that fresh milk, necessary to prepare Kraft Dinner, is the most precious commodity in many food-insecure households, which often can't afford it.
"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," said Rock.
Some single mothers told the study authors that their children often refused to eat Kraft Dinner because they had to consume it so often.
Rock said it's unacceptable that nearly 10 per cent of Canadian households don't have enough money to buy food.
She suggested that people donate cash instead of food items to food banks and social agencies so they can buy nutritious food for clients.