Feeding the mind: the mental health impacts of food insecurity

Eating healthy can be hard, and for many it’s becoming expensive to eat a balanced diet as food insecurity continues to be a growing problem.

Failing to properly fuel up can also have an impact on mental health according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

Meredith Gardiner, director of services with CMHA Waterloo Wellington, said physical health and mental health are very closely related.

“With that level of stress having to make a decision to feed your family, or pay your rent, or pay your bills, we can absolutely see an increase in anxiety, stress, and depression across the population,” Gardiner said.

It’s not just CMHA that is seeing this alarming trend, as the Waterloo Region Food Bank said it is noticing something similar is happening.

“We know if people have to choose between eating and paying for housing, they are going to pay for their housing,” said Kim Wilhelm, Interim CEO at the Food Bank Waterloo Region. “No one should have to choose between those.”

They say 1 in 14 homes in the Waterloo region are food insecure, and buying healthy food is getting more difficult.

According to Statistics Canada, the overall inflation rate has pushed the price of groceries up 9 percent over last year.

The food bank has a few suggestions to help find nutritious food without breaking the bank.

“People can use brown rice, millet, bucket wheat different types of grains which are whole grains,” said Cambridge Food Bank nutritionist Chaitali Maybhate.

Maybebate said it is important not just to look at the price but to spend some time looking at the nutrition of the items you plan to eat.

“Read the nutritional label go through all those ingredients, they can add their own protein, and you can increase (increase) the nutritional value,” Maybhate said.

According to Chai, learning to cook even a little can make a big difference.

The Food Bank of Waterloo region says 60 per cent of the food delivered (to clients) is fresh or frozen, and they ask anyone who is having trouble buying food to reach out to see how they can help.

For those looking to eat a balanced diet, the Government of Canada has a food guide that can be found by clicking here.

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