Hunger in Canadian Kids

Food insecurity has long been a global concern. As a concept, it is defined as not having consistent access to adequate quantity of safe and nutritious food, of an individual’s personal preference. Food insecurity has been associated with poor nutritional environments in families, poor diets as well as a range of negative health outcomes for children including obesity, poor self-rated health, increased physical symptoms and associated medicine use, poorer emotional health, lower health-related quality of life, and poorer physical function. There has been some recent, and much needed attention, on children and adolescents’ food insecurity in North America. However, there remains a gap in our understanding of youths’ perspective and their personal experiences of food insecurity. We also require a better evidence-base to inform policies and practical interventions specific to school-going children.


In this area of our research, we use HBSC data to document the prevalence of adolescent hunger in Canada. We investigate the relationship between going to school or bed hungry, and negative emotional, physical and social health outcomes. Additionally, we consider how the effects are modified by family practices, socio-economic factors and school programs. We discuss the implications of these findings for hunger alleviation programs for youth. The purpose of and additional study on this topic is to investigate food insecurity and the role of varied social support in Canadian adolescents to inform intervention and future research in this area. This purpose will be achieved using a mixed method (qualitative and quantitative) approach with an HBSC epidemiological analysis as well as qualitative focus groups for determining the validity of a food security HBSC item.

Research Findings

Beyond Nutrition: Hunger and Its Impact on the Health of Young Canadians


What was studied?

This study looked at how many young Canadians were hungry due to an inadequate food supply at home, and if there was a relationship between this hunger and certain health outcomes. In the study, being hungry was if the child went to school or bed hungry due to having insufficient food at home.


Who was studied?

This study used information on Canadian youth gathered through the 2009/2010 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Survey. Specifically, this study looked at data from 25,912 youth ages 11-15 from all across Canada.


What was found?

  • Hunger is common among young Canadians

  • Hunger is related to a number of common family characteristics like family structure, communication, and meal practices (regardless of family socio-economic status)

  • School-based food programs are not related to where kids are reporting being hungry

  • Hunger is related to a number of negative emotional, physical and social health outcomes

  • A lack of care is the link between hunger and the negative health outcome exhibited among young Canadians


What should parents and caregivers take out of this?

While food programs are important, there should be a move towards addressing overall care of young Canadians to result in the best health possible.

Holistic Health