Measuring Food Security in Canadian Homeless Adult Men

Publication: Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
3 October 2017


Purpose: To assess whether the current food security measurement tool used in Canada, the Canadian Community Health Survey, is appropriate for use with homeless adults.
Methods: The Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM), a validated measurement tool utilized for determining the food security status of Canadian households, was used with a group of homeless men (n = 40). In-depth interviews were also conducted with participants to obtain particulars about their food acquisition strategies. Data were analyzed by comparing the results of the HFSSM with qualitative data.
Results: The HFSSM measurement tool found that 90% (n = 36) of the study participants experienced food insecurity with 67.5% (n = 27) experiencing severe food insecurity and 22.5% (n = 9) experiencing moderate food insecurity. The qualitative data, however, suggested that all participants (n = 40) were food insecure based on food acquisition practices, food accessibility, and diet quality.
Conclusions: The HFSSM has validity concerns when applied to homeless populations. Nutrition professionals and other key stakeholders should work to develop valid tools for measuring the food security status of homeless individuals who are highly vulnerable to food insecurity.


Objectif : Déterminer si l’outil de mesure de la sécurité alimentaire actuellement utilisé au Canada, l’Enquête sur la santé dans les collectivités canadiennes, est adapté à une utilisation avec des adultes sans abri.
Méthodes : Le Module d’enquête sur la sécurité alimentaire des ménages (MESAM), un outil de mesure validé employé pour déterminer la situation en matière de sécurité alimentaire des ménages canadiens, a été utilisé auprès d’un groupe d’hommes sans abri (n = 40). Des entretiens en profondeur ont également été effectués avec les participants pour obtenir des détails au sujet de leurs stratégies d’acquisition des aliments. Les données ont été analysées en comparant les résultats du MESAM avec des données qualitatives.
Résultats : Selon l’outil de mesure du MESAM, 90 % (n = 36) des participants de l’étude vivaient de l’insécurité alimentaire, 67,5 % (n = 27) d’entre eux faisant face à une insécurité alimentaire grave et 22,5 % (n = 9), à une insécurité alimentaire modérée. Cependant, les données qualitatives suggéraient que tous les participants (n = 40) vivaient de l’insécurité alimentaire, à la lumière de leurs pratiques d’acquisition des aliments, de leur accessibilité à la nourriture et de la qualité de leur alimentation.
Conclusions : Il y a lieu de s’inquiéter de la validité du MESAM lorsqu’on l’applique à des populations de sans-abri. Les professionnels de la nutrition et d’autres intervenants clés devraient mettre au point des outils valides pour mesurer la situation en matière de sécurité alimentaire des personnes sans abri hautement vulnérables à l’insécurité alimentaire.

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Financial support: University of Manitoba Academic Enhancement Fund, Sunshine House (in-kind).
Conflicts of interest: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Information & Authors


Published In

cover image Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
Volume 79Number 1March 2018
Pages: 42 - 45
Editor: Newton Lupwayi


Version of record online: 3 October 2017



Carla D’andreamatteo RD, MSc
Department of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB
Joyce Slater RD, PhD
Department of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB

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