May 8, 2018 8:51 pm

Over half of food bank users more likely to have heart attacks, study says

Ninety-seven per cent of food bank users say they are unable to obtain food that is nutritious and affordable.

AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam

A new study has revealed that over half of Vancouverites that use food banks are more likely to suffer non-life threatening heart attacks over the next three years.

“I can’t speak exactly as to why they come to be at high risk,” said Jennifer Black, assistant professor at the University of British Columbia and one of the researchers of the study. “But it’s clear from this particular sample, the people who use food banks are already experiencing other chronic life stressors.”

The study measured the health of people 18 years or older from three food banks sites in Metro Vancouver.

WATCH: More Canadians using food banks: Survey

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Fifty-three per cent of those who attended a food bank reported in the survey of having “chronic or several periods of stress” in the past year.

Over half said they had “low physical activity levels” and 80 per cent said they consumed fewer than “five servings of fruits and vegetables” a day.

“These are people who experience lives of extreme poverty, and that makes it challenging to access healthy foods,” she said.

Black said Vancouver-area food banks are doing “their best” to try and provide healthier foods, but costs and finances are a “major constraint” to accessing healthy foods.

READ MORE: Healthy eaters waste the most food, new study finds

“A lot of people would now argue, among the biggest challenges of this community is insufficient access to income. So certainly lifting people out of poverty is among the most important solutions that the food bank itself cannot address on its own,” Black said.

The point of the research was to try and understand the challenges of people who rely on food banks in Vancouver, she said.

She said food banks could later use this information to conduct more research where they hope to find solutions.

“People are still experiencing high rates of food insecurity or inability to meet their household needs due to financial reasons,” Black said.

“And at the same time are experiencing chronic health challenges and other life stressors that make it challenging to live in an expensive city like Vancouver.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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