When a Mother's Love Is Not Enough
Smythe, Yvonne Voulgaris, Women & Environments International Magazine
Nutritional Wellness is Everyone's Right
Single mothers living in poverty are highly susceptible to malnourishment. While they are often doing their best to provide healthy food to their children, the research suggests their options are limited. As a result, single mothers may compromise their own nutrition to ensure their children are well-fed. As poverty and illness are inherently linked, single mothers end up in a vicious cycle of illness and poor health.
On the simplest level, the human body is a composite of cells that survive on the nourishment provided by whole foods - foods that have not been refined or processed. It is everyone's fundamental right to have access to healthy, whole foods for survival. Yet, Canada has made these foods the least accessible to those who are at the highest risk for disease: single mothers on social assistance and their children.
According to Statistics Canada, 80% of lone parent households in 2006 were headed by women. As well, single mothers fall statistically into the lowest income category (Statistics Canada, 2006). Food Banks Canada (2011) links child poverty to household income and lists 38% of their recipients as children. Although the correlation between hungry mothers and hungry children has been the focus of many studies over the years, the problem still persists.
The cost of healthy, unadulterated foods, free of pesticides and organophosphates and rich in vitamins and minerals is beyond the means of families with limited budgets. Anderson et al (2003) support the theory that mothers sacrifice their own well-being in order to provide proper amounts and quality foods to their children. They found that dispensing the Canadian Child Tax Benefit Credit and the Goods and Services Tax Credit correlated to a time when "children experienced some improvement in nutritional intake."
Although mothers want to provide proper nourishment to their children, the Canadian government continues to reduce funding that contributes to buying healthy foods that stave off poverty and illnesses associated with higher risk families. As a result, children in low income families, particularly those headed by single mothers, are vulnerable to a number of diseases (chronic and acute) and learning disorders which are linked to food insecurity. Kirkpatrick et al (2010) found that, "Children and youth who experience hunger are more likely to have poorer health, and repeated exposure appears to be particularly toxic." These researchers and scientists found "food insecurity in childhood to be a marker of vulnerability."
As sole providers, most single mothers give themselves completely, emotionally and physically, to their children. They get very little help and suffer personal losses beyond just food. They often lose their health and as sole providers, the fear of leaving their children alone causes greater anxiety. In comparison to partnered mothers, results showed that, "Lone mothers were more likely to be current smokers, overweight or obese. Those with clinical risk for CVD, including diabetes, elevated C-reactive protein, hypercholesterolemia, or hypertension, or all of these, were more likely to be lone mothers" (Buis DS, et al, 2005).
Nutrition is also a vital component in managing mental illness, which is another threat to single mothers. The lack of certain vitamins found in whole grains like millet, spelt, and brown rice - for example B Complex, folic acid, and inositol - contributes to depression; and the lack of good fats, as found in fish, avocadoes, and cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, leads to diminished brain capacity and nervous system disorders. The food options available to low-income mothers are the cheaper options, like white, refined pastas that lack fiber and nutrients found in the outer husks of the grains. …