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New research shows food insecurity especially high for north-end Halifax residents

A new research project highlights challenges Halifax's north end residents face with trying to afford and access healthy foods.

By Canada’s food guide standards – fruits, vegetables, protein and whole grains should be part of everyone’s daily food intake.

However, healthy and nutritious foods aren’t accessible, or affordable for many people. A daily reality that is especially true for people living in Halifax’s north end.

“Fruit and vegetables, for instance, which is out of most peoples range. They can’t pay the rent, if they need to eat proper vegetables,” Anittra Vanemberg said, a lifelong resident of the Gottingen Street area.

Anittra Vanemberg is a lifelong north end Halifax resident. She says low income assistance rates are a leading factor in families not being able to afford and access healthy food.
Anittra Vanemberg is a lifelong north end Halifax resident. She says low income assistance rates are a leading factor in families not being able to afford and access healthy food. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

READ MORE: ‘Everybody eats’: Making a case for food affordability as an election issue

Since 1971, the North End Community Health Centre [NECHC] has provided healthcare services to families and individuals in the area.
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Healthcare providers with the centre flagged access to healthy food as a major issue for residents.

“Based on the demographics of the North End Community Health Centre, the social determinants of health point to a higher rate of food insecurity based on lower income rates, immigrants, marginalized communities,” Shelley Baccardax said, a nutritionist with NECHC.

Those findings led to a two-year project that aims to increase government and policy support so that people in the community are better able to access healthy food in their neighbourhoods.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia leads country for food bank use

The name of the project is, ‘Where’s the Food, North End?’

“We mapped out where the food providers were and put that into an online map and we also held focus groups speaking to community members, to hear their first-voice experience with food insecurity,” Baccardax said.

Community members voice their concerns and struggles with food security and three key themes were identified as a result.

A need for increased income assistance, improved transportation and an affordable grocery store within the neighbourhood.

READ MORE: ‘Everybody eats’: Making a case for food affordability as an election issue

“The biggest thing around government and policy change would be giving people a higher fixed income. Our community members want to access and purchase healthy, affordable food but they can’t based on the restrictions of their fixed income,” Baccardax said.

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Vanemberg remembers a time when there used to be a Sobey’s on Gottingen Street that was steadily used by members of the community.

Not only was it within walking distance for seniors and people with mobility issues – it provided a hub for the densely populated community to be able to readily access a full range of healthy foods.

Keeping edible food out of the landfill
Keeping edible food out of the landfill

Now, a new development stands in its place.

“They take all of the grocery stores and move them on the outskirts, or to where people have to get a cab to go there. Well, you can’t afford the cab,” Vanemberg said.

Baccardax says the north end food project will be used to push for increased support from policy makers and government officials to help address the issue of food insecurity.

“We need to continue building partnerships in the community and gain funding through organizations in our government,” she said.