Anna Farmer

Fighting the Issue of Food Insecurity

CFDR prides itself in funding research in all areas of food and nutrition, from new approaches to clinical interventions to associations between nutrient intake and disease progression to evaluations of healthy eating guidelines for children. In 2015 we funded a study addressing a critical societal issue: food insecurity.

Referring to a lack of access to a sufficient variety or quantity of food due to insufficient income, food insecurity is an issue in 8.3% of Canadian households according to Statistics Canada (2012). And according to the funded research team, the need for further study in this area has been urgent for a long time.

“We were discussing earlier work in this area at a food insecurity conference in 2012 that hosted academics, physicians and government leaders,” said Sheila Tyminksi, Director, Nutrition Services at Alberta Health Services and co-author of the study. “We learned that despite our previous five years of attention to this issue, household food insecurity remains a new frontier topic in the health system.”

The realization led Dr. Tyminski and her colleagues from Alberta Health Services and the Universities of Alberta and Calgary—Drs. Anna Farmer, Carlota Basualdo, Suzanne Galesloot and Tanis Fenton—to their CFDR-funded study: Dietitians’ Perceptions & Practices of Food Insecurity in Health setting (DPPFI). Its objective: to evaluate the validity and reliability of the new online DPPFI surveys and to administer them to assess dietitians’ knowledge, perceptions, barriers and practices.

We learned that despite our previous five years of attention to the issue, household food insecurity remains a new frontier topic in the health system.

“The original DPPFI survey was based on an environmental scan; our team conducted focus groups with dietitians to discuss knowledge and practice in food insecurity,” said Dr. Farmer. “The themes that arose helped inform the survey we were creating for Albertan dietitians. The Dietitians of Canada heard about our work and expressed interest in launching a national version to their membership.”

The two surveys will be conducted between March and July 2016 and are expected to generate input from more than 800 respondents. They will assess dietitians’ self-perceived knowledge and levels of confidence in assessing food insecurity. The results will help to inform curriculum and continuing education at practice level and create resources to support dietitians.

CFDR is proud to support this initiative that will have a wide-reaching impact. “We’re very thankful for the grant,” said Dr. Farmer. “We’ve been working on a shoestring, with in-kind support from Alberta Health Services. CFDR’s support will propel our efforts.”

© Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research 2016.