A researcher says Newfoundland and Labrador has been leading the country in recent years when it comes to food security for people on low incomes.

Valerie Tarasuk, a nutritional sciences professor at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine, says between the years 2005 and 2011 Newfoundland and Labrador did better than every other province on security issues.

She said the research indicated the province fared so well because of policies that were part of the government's poverty reduction strategy.

"What's so beautiful about what Newfoundland and Labrador did in their poverty reduction strategy was they had a whole range of measures to try and reduce poverty in the province," Tarasulk told the St. John's Morning Show Thursday.

"They also reached out to the people at the very bottom of the economic spectrum, which would be the people on welfare, and they improved their circumstances."

Valarie Tarasuk

Valerie Tarasuk, researcher with the University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine, says Newfoundland and Labrador did better than the rest of the country between 2005-2011 when it comes to food security for low income families. (CBC)

Tarasuk is one of the authors of a report, just published in the journal Canadian Public Policy which looked at food insecurity across the country. 

The report defines food insecurity as "people struggling to put food on the table for themselves and their families because of lack of money."

Tarasuk said the Newfoundland and Labrador government's actions on income assistance were key to making sure low income earners had enough cash to spend on the food they need.

She said aspects of the poverty reduction strategy that worked included extended benefits around health care and credits for affordable housing.

"If someone was on social assistance and able to work, they were able to retain more of their earnings, which is huge," she said.

"In 2011, Newfoundland had the lowest rate of food insecurity in Canada and that was amazing."

Could be changing because of economic downturn

Tarasuk said she is aware that the period between 2005 to 2011 was a prosperous one for Newfoundland and Labrador, with oil revenues filling government coffers, allowing more spending on social programs.

She said the next time data is collected, she expects very different results.

"While from 2007 to 2011 there had been a steady drop in the rate of food insecurity in Newfoundland and Labrador, sadly in 2012 it started to edge up," she said.

"I don't know how things will have played out for people on income assistance — my guess is things won't be as good for them because of this loss of indexation."