One of the points raised when Canada’s new food guide was released earlier this year was that many Canadians can’t afford to eat healthy, an issue that can be found in this region as well, says a public health nutritionist with the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
“We have a food security challenge,” said Jane Cunningham, who works in the NHSA’s western zone.
She and Heather Baillie, also a nutritionist with the NSHA, were among the presenters at an information session put on by the Yarmouth County Community Health Board.
The event was held at NSCC Burridge, where it was noted that many people simply don’t have enough money to have a healthy diet.
Cunningham spoke about it further in an interview, saying “this area in particular has a very high poverty rate and so, kind of in conjunction with that, because of that, we have high rates of food insecurity.”
So while the food guide may have good information and suggestions, she said, not everyone is able to put the guide’s recommendations into practice.
“We give examples and advice on healthy eating, but it can only go so far when people don’t actually have the ability to do it,” Cunningham said.
Improving food security is one of the priorities identified in a recently released community health plan, a collaborative effort involving the 11 community health boards in western Nova Scotia.
What’s the solution? Cunningham notes that there are different proposals, including the idea of a guaranteed basic or minimum income.
“Anything that kind of gets at poverty (and helps put) more money into people’s pockets,” she said. “There are policy-level changes or improvements that could really have the biggest difference.”
Canada’s new food guide was released in January. The guide had last been revised about a dozen years ago.
Among other things, the new guide has done away with the emphasis on the food groups.
“They’re really promoting more plant-based foods and plant-based proteins,” Cunningham said.
She notes how the new guide is presented visually as a plate rather than a rainbow, saying the information is delivered in a more user-friendly way.
Aside from recommending what to eat, the guide says healthy eating is about more than the foods we consume.
It encourages people to be mindful of their eating habits, to cook more often and to eat meals with others. It also recommends using food labels, being aware of food marketing and limiting foods high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat.