Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 106, Issue 3, pp e140–e146 | Cite as

Rural food insecurity: When cooking skills, homegrown food, and perseverance aren’t enough to feed a family

  • Ellen V. Buck-McFadyen
Qualitative Research



More than 1 in 10 Canadians experience food insecurity, and a growing number of families rely on food banks each month. This ethnographic study aimed to give voice to rural families about their experiences with food insecurity while situating the findings within the broader social, political and economic context.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with women who had children living at home, and interviewer observations within the food bank were recorded as field notes. Content analysis was combined with the constant comparison method of data analysis to identify common themes regarding the experience of living with food insecurity and the influence of public policy.


Seven female participants described the emotional toll that food insecurity had on their well-being and relationships, with stress and depression common to many women. Strategies used to stretch resources included cooking from scratch, growing produce, stocking up on sale items, hunting and fishing, and paying half-bills. Many participants described going without food so that their children could eat first, and three participants went without prescription medications. Rurality and social programs were identified as both supports and barriers to overcoming food insecurity.


Participants in this study were highly skilled in attempting to feed their families with limited resources, although this proved inadequate to overcome their food insecurity. This highlights the need for policy initiatives to address the root causes of food insecurity and health inequities, including access to rural employment and high-quality child care, drug benefits and guaranteed annual income programs.

Key words

Rural health policy social determinants of health food supply poverty 



Plus d’un Canadien sur 10 est aux prises avec l’insécurité alimentaire, et un nombre croissant de familles fait appel aux banques alimentaires chaque mois. Notre étude ethnographique visait à faire entendre la voix des familles rurales au sujet de leur expérience de l’insécurité alimentaire tout en situant nos constatations dans un contexte social, politique et économique élargi.


Des entrevues semi dirigées ont été menées auprès de femmes ayant des enfants vivant à la maison, et les observations des enquêteurs de la banque alimentaire ont été enregistrées en tant que notes de terrain. Une analyse de contenu, combinée à la méthode de comparaison constante des données, a permis de dégager des thèmes communs dans l’expérience de l’insécurité alimentaire, et de déterminer l’influence des politiques publiques.


Sept participantes ont décrit le coût affectif de l’insécurité alimentaire sur leur bien-être et leurs relations, le stress et la dépression étant le lot de bien des femmes. Les stratégies employées pour étirer les ressources étaient de faire sa propre cuisine, de cultiver des fruits et légumes, de faire des stocks d’articles en vente, de pratiquer la chasse et la pêche et de payer les factures à moitié. Beaucoup de participantes ont dit se priver de nourriture pour que leurs enfants mangent en premier, et trois d’entre elles ont dit se passer de médicaments sur ordonnance. La ruralité et les programmes sociaux ont été désignés à la fois comme des soutiens et des obstacles pour surmonter l’insécurité alimentaire.


Les participantes de l’étude étaient très compétentes pour nourrir leurs familles avec des ressources limitées, mais cela ne suffisait pas pour surmonter leur insécurité alimentaire. Il faudrait mettre en place des initiatives stratégiques pour aborder les causes profondes de l’insécurité alimentaire et des iniquités face à la santé, dont des initiatives d’accès à l’emploi en milieu rural et des programmes d’aide à l’enfance, d’assurance-médicaments et de revenu annuel garanti de haute qualité.

Mots Clés

santé en zone rurale politiques déterminants sociaux de la santé approvisionnement en nourriture pauvreté 


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of NursingYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Trent UniversityPeterboroughCanada

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