Ruiz-Castell, Gina Muckle, Eric Dewailly, Joseph L Jacobson, Sandra W. Jacobson, Pierre Ayotte, and Mylene Riva (2015) Household crowding and food insecurity among Inuit families with school-aged children in the Canadian Arctic, American Journal of Public Health, 105(3): 122-132

Keywords: children and youthcrowdingfood securityhousing conditionsNunavik

Ruiz-Castell & et al. examined whether household crowding was associated with food insecurity among Inuit families with school-aged children in Nunavik. They were particularly interested in looking at food insecurity independent from socioeconomic status. Statistics Canada’s definition of household crowding as households with more than one person per room was used. Food insecurity was defined as being unable to obtain safe, sufficient, and nutritiously adequate foods in socially and culturally acceptable way for a healthy life.

Participants were recruited from the Cord Blood Monitoring Program (1993-1998) or the Environmental Contaminants and Child Development Study (1996-2000). The study was conducted between September 2005 and February 2010, with the participation of 289 families that met the study criteria. Interviews were conducted with primary caregivers in French, English, or Inuktitut. Questionnaires were used to collect information on the family’s food security, housing conditions, and socioeconomic and psychosocial characteristics.

The results showed that six out of ten households were overcrowded. Overcrowding was not related to caregiver age, education, or social assistance status. Nearly 50% of the families were food insecure, and about one-quarter of the families had to cut down the size of their children’s meals due to a of lack of money. Household crowding was significantly associated with the measure of severity of food insecurity. The authors suggest the sharing of resources within and between households that may elevate conflict and diminish familial cooperation, and ultimately lead to increased food insecurity.

Cutting down on the size of the children’s meals were twice as high in overcrowded households compared with households that were not overcrowded. Food-insecure households had lower socioeconomic and occupational status, and were more likely to be located on the Hudson Bay coast and to receive social assistance. The authors recommend that community, regional, and national interventions addressing vulnerable families, living in overcrowded conditions, may contribute to reducing food insecurity in Nunavik.