Activism

Standardize Shelter Food to Canada Health Sustainable Standards

Getting proper nutrition is the greatest challenge for individuals facing housing and employment crises. Lack of proper nutrition is not just experienced by homeless individuals living on the streets, but also homeless individuals living in shelters. Some shelters do provide adequate nutritional foods, however, this is not consistent across the GTA since Canada’s Food Guide (https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/technical-documents-labelling-requirements/table-daily-values.html) and Table of Daily Values ( https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/technical-documents-labelling-requirements/table-daily-values.html) for vitamins and minerals are not mandated by the City of Toronto to be implemented in community programs that are geared to adults who don’t have children in their custody. The federal government released an IOM report review on Calcium and Vitamin D (both essential for healthy bone growth) which shows that there is a prevalent inadequate intake of both nutrients amongst adult men and women. Homelessness greatly reduces a person’s access to foods that contain an optimal about of nutrients, such as milk, eggs, dark green vegetables, fish, yogurt and cheese amongst other sources of important vitamins.

All shelters, outreach programs, drop in centers or any community program assisting homeless individuals and providing meals should be responsible to source foods that have adequate amounts of nutrients and serve minimal amounts of processed foods that contribute to poor health such as pastas. If these community programs do not have adequate funding to do so, the City should provide that funding or implement it’s own program city wide and mandate that any non-profit organization housing homeless residents include nutritional guides in their meal programs upon start up. Canada’s Food Guide was created to assist individuals with an interest in maintaining a nutritious diet. However, homeless individuals would not be able to follow this guide if they choose to. Further, no alternatives are consistently offered to homeless individuals with diabetes, IBS/IBD, colitis, etc and in fact, a poor diet can cause a person to develop these conditions even if they didn’t have them upon initially experiencing their housing and employment crisis. Shelters do not screen people for any medical conditions consistently. Some shelters ask new residents if they have a medical condition requiring a dietary treatment, while others expect the new resident to report it themselves without informing them of any meal alternatives or the shelter simply won’t accommodate any dietary treatments.

This needs to change. Processed foods that are sold precooked and frozen, starchy foods that are served with only basic proteins are cheap fillers that only contribute to a person’s feeling of satiation temporarily. Minimal nutrients in foods cause an individual to feel more hungry more often despite feeling full at the end of a meal. Homeless individuals with no income or a limited income then rely on cheap foods to maintain that satiation unknowingly exacerbating or developing health issues surrounding digestive health or any auto-immune conditions they may be predisposed to. Community programs hosting meals do not even offer meal supplements as a nutrient packed solution to compensate for lack of nutrients in other meals.

We hope the City of Toronto recognizes that adult men and women in employment and housing crises often go without a nutritious diet and those with children in their custody go without meals to ensure their children’s dietary needs are met. It shouldn’t require a child in an adult’s custody living in a shelter and/or on a low income to access foods with appropriate nutrition. We hope the City of Toronto reviews our petition and takes our mandate into consideration.

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