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Dalhousie leads study on Atlantic Canadian diets during pandemic

Researchers from the university are investigating the nutritional impacts of how Atlantic Canadians have been eating during the coronavirus pandemic
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Researchers at Dalhousie University are studying the nutritional impacts of how Atlantic Canadians eat, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

CELLAR, which stands for COVID-related Eating Limitation and Latent dietary effects in the Atlantic Region, will be led by Dalhousie University’s Food Policy Lab.

Catherine Mah, an associate professor in Dalhousie University’s school of health administration, said it’s an important topic to research in this region of Canada.

“One of the key concerns right up front is that the Atlantic provinces do have among the highest diet related risk in the country in terms of provinces and regions,” Mah, who’s the Canada Research Chair in healthy population, told NEWS 95.7’s The Rick Howe Show. “So, that’s of particular concern. We also have among the highest rates of food insecurity in Canada.”

In Nova Scotia, one in five households with children are food insecure. Moreover, data from Statistics Canada shows 84.7 per cent of Nova Scotia households are food secure — the lowest of all provinces.

Mah said Atlantic Canada sees these issues because of economic and geographical circumstances.

She said high rates of poverty and child poverty are forces related to food insecurity. Moreover, the lack of affordable housing — especially in Nova Scotian communities — is an issue.

Geographically, Atlantic Canada has a high number of people living in rural communities or remotely. Mah said this makes it often difficult for people to conveniently access food with good availability.

For this study, researchers will begin calling Atlantic Canadian households — hoping to enrol 1,000 participants representative of the four Atlantic provinces — by random digit dialing. Participants will be asked to join for 12 weeks to cover three parts of the study.

It’ll start with a brief demographic survey and lead to a more detailed survey — which includes tracking one’s diet for 24 hours — in the second month of participation. Then, participants and their household members will be asked to keep the receipts of everything they purchase related to food and drink over the 12-week participation period.

The study will be led by researchers from Dalhousie University, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Memorial University and nutrition experts in Australia.

Mah said now’s a good time to start this study because people often start thinking of their diets in January as a New Year’s resolution.

On top of that, the economic impact from the pandemic has forced many people to review their budgets and how much they spend on food and drink.

The study will use research from a 2015 Statistics Canada study that did a dietary survey to look at nutrition across the country.

By using this previous research, Mah said researchers will be able to compare data and see the impacts on diets from the coronavirus pandemic.

People can’t participate in the study unless they receive the randomized phone call. However, those interested in learning more about the study can visit CELLAR’s website.

Chris Stoodley

About the Author: Chris Stoodley

Chris was born and raised in Halifax. After graduating from the journalism program at King's, he started as's weekend editor.
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