Coping With Child Hunger in Canada: Have Household Strategies Changed Over a Decade?

Lynn McIntyre, Aaron C. Bartoo, Jody Pow, Melissa L. Potestio


OBJECTIVE: To determine if household coping strategies for child hunger in Canada have changed over a decade (1996-2007).

METHODS: We applied t-tests to data derived from Cycle 2 (1996-1997; n=8165) and Cycle 7 (2006-2007; n=15,961) of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY) to determine changes in household coping strategies for child hunger. Data were restricted to households with children aged 2-9 years, allowing for cross-sectional analysis of two independent samples. Logistic regression was employed to estimate the odds of reporting child hunger for socio-demographic characteristics and the odds of using different coping strategies.

RESULTS: The national prevalence of child hunger fell from 1.5% in 1997 to 0.7% in 2007 (p<0.001). The determinants of child hunger (increased child age and household size, lack of home ownership, low household income, lone-parent status, family dysfunction) and hunger frequency (regular versus occasional) were similar in both NLSCY cycles. Utilization of food banks and other community resources as a method of coping with child hunger remained static despite an increase in national food banks/affiliated agencies in Canada (2,141 in 1998 to 3,540 in 2007). In contrast, there was an increased reliance on reducing household food variety, an internal coping mechanism, to manage child hunger (17.6% Cycle 2 to 35.1% Cycle 7; p=0.03).

CONCLUSION: Community outreach programs between 1997 and 2007 had little impact on coping strategies utilized by households facing child hunger. Our results indicate that current initiatives fail to reach these families.


children; hunger; food insecurity; coping; poverty; Canada

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