P.E.I. ties for highest rate of food-insecure children among provinces
'It's just a cascade of disadvantage'
Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia share the distinction of having the most children living in food-insecure households, according to the latest information from Statistics Canada.
Both provinces have almost 23 per cent of under 18s living with food insecurity.
University of Toronto nutritional sciences professor Valerie Tarasuk says the impact of food insecurity in childhood can be tracked throughout a person's life.
"It's just a cascade of disadvantage that starts with us identifying a household that's struggling to put food on the table," said Tarasuk.
"Children in food insecure situations have higher risk for poor health. Things like asthma, depression, are more likely to be diagnosed amongst children living in these circumstances. Down the road, children who are exposed to severe food insecurity are likely to incur more serious health problems and not perform as well in school. They are less likely to finish high school."
Tarasuk would like to see P.E.I. target and track food insecurity rates in its new poverty reduction strategy, which is being designed now.
She also recommends increasing social assistance shelter and food rates to match the cost of living, and offering targeted tax breaks for low-income Islanders with children.
Statistics Canada recently changed the way it surveys for food insecurity, so the results cannot be compared to previous years.