Tse C, Tarasuk V. Nutritional assessment of charitable meal programmes serving homeless people in Toronto. Public Health Nutr. 2008;11(12):1296-305

Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 3E2.
Public Health Nutrition (Impact Factor: 2.68). 07/2008; 11(12):1296-305. DOI: 10.1017/S1368980008002577
Source: PubMed


To assess the potential nutritional contribution of meals provided in a sample of community programmes for homeless individuals, to determine the effect of food donations on meal quality and to develop food-based guidance for meals that would meet adults' total nutrient needs.
Toronto, Canada.
An analysis of weighed meal records from eighteen programmes. The energy and nutrient contents of meals were compared to requirement estimates to assess contribution to total needs, given that homeless people have limited access to nutritious foods. Mixed linear modelling was applied to determine the relationship between the use of food donations and meal quality. The composition of meals that would meet adults' nutrient requirements was determined by constructing simulated meals, drawing on the selection of foods available to programmes.
In all, seventy meals, sampled from eighteen programmes serving homeless individuals.
On average, the meals contained 2.6 servings of grain products, 1.7 servings of meat and alternatives, 4.1 servings of vegetables and fruits and 0.4 servings of milk products. The energy and nutrient contents of most meals were below adults' average daily requirements. Most meals included both purchased and donated foods; the vitamin C content of meals was positively associated with the percentage of energy from donations. Increasing portion sizes improved the nutrient contribution of meals, but the provision of more milk products and fruits and vegetables was required to meet adults' nutrient requirements.
The meals assessed were inadequate to meet adults' nutrient requirements. Improving the nutritional quality of meals requires additional resources.

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    ABSTRACT: To explain the low nutrient intakes of homeless youth in Toronto by looking at their usual food intake patterns and the food they obtained from charitable programs and their own purchases. Interviews were conducted with 261 homeless youth (149 male, 112 female), recruited from outdoor locations and drop-in centres in downtown Toronto. Drawing on data from two 24-hour dietary intake recalls, youths' usual food intakes were estimated and compared to Canada's Food Guide recommendations. The nutritional quality of youths' food intakes from charitable meal programs and food purchases was compared. The mean usual food intakes for homeless males and females were well below current recommendations for all four food groups and below the usual intakes of adults, 19-30 years, in the general population. On a given day, youths' mean energy intakes were 1962 +/- 1394 kcal for females and 2163 +/- 1542 kcal for males, with more energy coming from "other foods" than any other food group. Regardless of whether they obtained food from charitable meal programs or purchased it for themselves, youths' mean intakes from the four food groups were very low and most youth consumed no whole grains or dark green or orange vegetables (i.e., foods recommended in Canada's Food Guide). The low nutritional quality of youths' food intakes is consistent with the high prevalence of nutrient inadequacies previously documented in this sample. The existing food acquisition strategies of homeless youth appear to be insufficient for them to meet their nutritional needs.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2009 · Canadian journal of public health. Revue canadienne de santé publique
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    ABSTRACT: To describe homeless youths' experiences of food insecurity and examine the relation between chronic food deprivation and food acquisition practices. A cross-sectional survey of homeless youths was conducted in 2003 to assess their nutritional vulnerability and describe their food acquisition practices. Toronto, Canada. Two hundred and sixty-one youths, aged 16-24 years, who had spent ten or more of the past thirty nights sleeping in a temporary shelter, public space or friend's place, because they had no place of their own. Most participant recruitment (70%) occurred outdoors, but 30% were recruited in drop-in centres. Over the past 30 d, 28% of males and 43% of females experienced chronic food deprivation (i.e. reduced food intake for > or =10 d), and 32% of females and 48% of males reported problems obtaining water to drink. Most youths routinely obtained meals at charitable programmes and panhandled for money for food, and many routinely stole food or ate day-old food obtained from restaurants. In contrast, eating food discarded by others and postponing debt payments were strategies of desperation, more common among youths experiencing chronic food deprivation. Additionally, for males, deliberately seeking the company of friends, relatives or acquaintances to obtain food, and for females, borrowing money or trading sex for food, were associated with chronic food deprivation. The pervasiveness and severity of food insecurity experienced by the youths and their desperate means of food acquisition highlight the need for more effective responses to the plight of homeless youths in Canadian cities.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2009 · Public Health Nutrition
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