Nutrition and sociodemographic characteristics of Montreal food bank provision recipients
ABSTRACT Parallel to the widening gap between high and low income status in Canada has been the increasing number of individuals and families accessing community food banks. In the 1990's, food security reached the national agenda for action, yet no study had described the nutrition and sociodemographic characteristics of a random sample of food bank provision recipients, specifically their nutrient intake throughout the month or at the end of the month when food and money are thought to be most limited. Preliminary studies, at two sites identified the contents of food bank provisions and the clientele to be surveyed. Thereafter, 490 food bank users were randomly selected from a stratified random sample of 57 Montreal area food banks. A dietitian-administered sociodemographic questionnaire and 24-hour dietary recall were completed upon client enrolment at the food banks; following this, three further in-person 24-h recall interviews were conducted, week-by-week over the month. Sixty-two people did not complete all interviews. The 428 people completing four interviews were primarily healthy, well-educated adults (overall mean age 41.5 +/- 12.6 years; men 41.4 +/- 12.2 and women 41.4 +/- 13.0 years) who perceived the food banks as a necessary community service. The frail elderly and single parents with large families did not use food banks. Mean energy intake was similar to the general Quebec population (10.2 and 7.9 MJ for men and women, respectively) and macronutrient intake was stable throughout the month. With the exception of calcium, mean nutrient intakes met recommended levels and were not influenced by income-week nor by energy intake variability. Intakes of several nutrients were related to frequency of food bank use, household size, smoking, education and country of birth. When intakes expressed as food group servings were compared to the number of servings recommended in Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating, no age or sex group met the Milk Products group minimum recommended servings; mean intake of Vegetables and Fruit by women age 18--49 years was also below recommended levels. In both nutrient and food group evaluations, high variability around the mean reflected very low intakes by some food bank clients. Montreal recipients of food bank provisions achieved a dietary status similar to the general Quebec population.