Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 100, Issue 1, pp 36–40 | Cite as

Food Intake Patterns of Homeless Youth in Toronto

  • Allanah Li
  • Naomi Dachner
  • Valerie TarasukEmail author
Quantitative Research



To explain the low nutrient intakes of homeless youth in Toronto by looking at their usual food intake patterns and the food they obtained from charitable programs and their own purchases.


Interviews were conducted with 261 homeless youth (149 male, 112 female), recruited from outdoor locations and drop-in centres in downtown Toronto. Drawing on data from two 24-hour dietary intake recalls, youths’ usual food intakes were estimated and compared to Canada’s Food Guide recommendations. The nutritional quality of youths’ food intakes from charitable meal programs and food purchases was compared.


The mean usual food intakes for homeless males and females were well below current recommendations for all four food groups and below the usual intakes of adults, 19–30 years, in the general population. On a given day, youths’ mean energy intakes were 1962 ± 1394 kcal for females and 2163 ± 1542 kcal for males, with more energy coming from “other foods” than any other food group. Regardless of whether they obtained food from charitable meal programs or purchased it for themselves, youths’ mean intakes from the four food groups were very low and most youth consumed no whole grains or dark green or orange vegetables (i.e., foods recommended in Canada’s Food Guide).


The low nutritional quality of youths’ food intakes is consistent with the high prevalence of nutrient inadequacies previously documented in this sample. The existing food acquisition strategies of homeless youth appear to be insufficient for them to meet their nutritional needs.

Key words

Homeless youth food diet nutrition assessment 



Expliquer les faibles apports de nutriments des jeunes sans abri de Toronto en examinant leurs rations alimentaires habituelles, les aliments qu’ils obtiennent de programmes caritatifs et les aliments qu’ils achètent eux-mêmes.


Nous avons interviewé 261 jeunes sans abri (149 garçons, 112 filles) recrutés dans des lieux extérieurs et des centres d’accueil du centre-ville de Toronto. À partir des données de deux feuilles de rappel des aliments ingérés pendant les 24 dernières heures, nous avons estimé les rations alimentaires habituelles de ces jeunes et nous les avons comparées aux recommandations du Guide alimentaire canadien. Nous avons également comparé la qualité nutritionnelle des rations alimentaires que les jeunes obtiennent des programmes caritatifs de distribution de repas et des aliments qu’ils achètent.


La ration alimentaire moyenne habituelle des garçons et des filles sans abri était très inférieure aux recommandations en vigueur pour les quatre groupes d’aliments et inférieure aux apports habituels des adultes (19 à 30 ans) dans la population générale. La journée choisie, les apports énergétiques moyens des jeunes étaient de 1 962 ± 1 394 kcal pour les filles et de 2 163 ± 1 542 kcal pour les garçons, et les calories consommées provenaient davantage du groupe des «autres aliments» que de tout autre groupe. Que ces jeunes se procurent leurs aliments de programmes caritatifs ou qu’ils les achètent eux-mêmes, leurs apports moyens provenant des quatre groupes d’aliments étaient très faibles, et la plupart des jeunes ne consommaient pas de céréales entières ni de légumes vert foncé ou orange (les aliments recommandés dans le Guide alimentaire canadien).


La faible qualité nutritionnelle des rations alimentaires des jeunes sans abri confirme la forte prévalence des carences nutritionnelles déjà observées dans cette population. Les stratégies actuelles des jeunes sans abri pour s’alimenter ne semblent pas répondre à leurs besoins nutritionnels.

Mots clés

jeunes sans abri aliments régime analyse nutritionnelle 


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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