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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 100, Issue 2, pp 135–139 | Cite as

Food Insecurity and Participation in Community Food Programs among Low-income Toronto Families

  • Sharon I. KirkpatrickEmail author
  • Valerie Tarasuk
Quantitative Research
  • 1 Downloads

Abstract

Objectives

Responses to food insecurity in Canada have been dominated by community-based food initiatives, while little attention has been paid to potential policy directions to alleviate this problem. The purpose of this paper is to examine food security circumstances, participation in community food programs, and strategies employed in response to food shortages among a sample of low-income families residing in high-poverty Toronto neighbourhoods.

Methods

Data from surveys conducted with 484 families and neighbourhood mapping were analyzed.

Results

Two thirds of families were food insecure over the past 12 months and over one quarter were severely food insecure, indicative of food deprivation. Only one in five families used food banks in the past 12 months and the odds of use were higher among food-insecure families. One third of families participated in children’s food programs but participation was not associated with household food security. One in 20 families used a community kitchen, and participation in community gardens was even lower. It was relatively common for families to delay payments of bills or rent and terminate services as a way to free up money for food and these behaviours were positively associated with food insecurity.

Discussion

While documenting high rates of food insecurity, this research challenges the presumption that current community-based food initiatives are reaching those in need. Public health practitioners have a responsibility to critically examine the programs that they deliver to assess their relevance to food-insecure households and to advocate for policy reforms to ensure that low-income households have adequate resources for food.

Key words

Food security low-income nutrition poverty Canada 

Résumé

Objectifs

Les réactions à l’insécurité alimentaire au Canada ont été dominées par des initiatives alimentaires axées sur la communauté, tandis que l’attention a été portée sur les orientations éventuelles de la politique pour atténuer ce problème. Le but de ce document est d’examiner les circonstances entourant l’insécurité alimentaire, la participation aux programmes alimentaires communautaires et les stratégies employées en réaction aux pénuries de vivres parmi un échantillon de familles à faible revenu résidant dans les quartiers très pauvres de Toronto.

Méthode

Les données des études effectuées auprès de 484 familles et de la cartographie des quartiers ont été analysées.

Résultats

Les deux tiers des familles connaissaient l’insécurité alimentaire depuis les 12 derniers mois, et un quart d’entre elles connaissait une très grande insécurité alimentaire, signe de privation absolue de nourriture. Seulement 1 famille sur 5 avait fait appel aux banques alimentaires au cours des 12 derniers mois et la probabilité d’utilisation était plus élevée parmi les familles connaissant l’insécurité alimentaire. Un tiers des familles avait participé à des programmes alimentaires pour les enfants, mais la participation n’était pas associée à l’insécurité alimentaire des ménages. Une famille sur 20 utilisait une cuisine communautaire, et la participation aux jardins communautaires était même plus faible. Il était plus ou moins courant pour les familles de retarder le paiement des factures ou du loyer ou d’annuler des services afin d’avoir de l’argent pour se nourrir, et ces comportements étaient associés positivement à l’insécurité alimentaire.

Discussion

Bien qu’elle indique des taux élevé d’insécurité alimentaire, cette recherche examinait la présomption que les initiatives alimentaires communautaires actuelles touchent les personnes dans le besoin. Les médecins de la santé publique ont la responsabilité d’examiner de façon éclairée les programmes qu’ils offrent afin d’évaluer leur pertinence pour les ménages connaissant l’insécurité alimentaire et de défendre les réformes politiques afin d’assurer que les ménages à faible revenu ont les ressources adéquates pour obtenir de la nourriture.

Mots clés

sécurité alimentaire faible revenu nutrition pauvreté Canada 

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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