Ottawa Neighbourhood Study reveals gaps in access to healthy foods

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City of Ottawa

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) hosted the Meet, Eat And Learn (M.E.A.L) forum at the Main branch of the Ottawa Public Library. The M.E.A.L. forum brought together partners from the Ottawa region that work on increasing access to healthy food and hunger prevention.

The highlight of the event was the release, by University of Ottawa's Dr. Elizabeth Kristjansson, of the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study's new food-related data and the launch of their newly designed website.

The new food resource data collected by the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study (ONS) team is used by OPH and other City departments for urban and health planning, and to mobilize and inform residents and community partners for healthier and safer communities.

"With this new data in hand, OPH and our partners can better address social challenges such as the lack of proper access to healthy foods," says Dr. Isra Levy, Medical Officer of Health. "This data also guides us to better direct our efforts to address each neighbourhood's specific needs."

Preliminary analysis of the new data shows that residents in 22 of 33 Ottawa neighbourhoods of lower socio-economic status must travel more than 1 km or walk longer than 15 minutes to access affordable, healthy food. Evidence demonstrates that there is a link between residents' proximity to full-service food retailers and their access to healthy and nutritious food.

"The Ottawa Neighbourhood Study has had a great impact on informing public policy and has contributed greatly to better public education at the community level," says Dr. Elizabeth Kristjansson, whose study won the prestigious 2012 Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Partnership Award.

The ONS brings together the University of Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health and the City of Ottawa, local Community Health and Resource Centres, Carleton University, United Way/Centraide Ottawa, The Champlain Local Health Integration Network, IBM, and other community-based partners.

Other partners provided important updates on their work, including Just Food, the Poverty and Hunger Working Group, and the Ottawa Food Bank.