Community food programs

Federal and provincial initiatives such as investments to reduce child poverty, programs to increase labour force participation, and funding of community-based food and nutrition programs to assist vulnerable populations, may directly or indirectly impact household food insecurity, but ameliorating household food insecurity is not the focus of these initiatives and their impact remains under-evaluated.

Food insecurity remains a pervasive and serious problem in Canada, and community food programs are the primary response to the problem.

When a household is unable to buy the food they need, they may seek out charitable food assistance in the form of food banks (also called grocery or food hamper programs) and meal/snack programs. However, the limitations of these programs in addressing food insecurity are well-documented. The groceries provided by food banks are limited in quantity and sometimes of questionable quality. Research examining meal/snack programs has found that meal provisioning is often a secondary service for an agency, and thus the schedule and timing of the meals are designed to fit within the existing operations and resources, and not the food and nutrition needs of program users.

In addition to charitable food assistance, there are a variety of community level food-based and nutrition programs that have broad social goals related to the environment and community- building. However, many also strive to increase access to nutritious foods and local foods among low income groups and are sometimes seen as food security initiatives. These programs include community kitchens, community gardens, food buying clubs, farmers’ markets and food boxes. The limited research on these programs suggests very low participation rates, with little potential to impact food insecure households.

The following articles present research on community food programs:

Adults’ food skills and use of gardens are not associated with household food insecurity in Canada

Huisken A, Orr SK, Tarasuk, V.
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2017; 107(6), e526-e532.
[Abstract]

An Examination of Charitable Meal Programs in Five Canadian cities
Pettes T, Dachner N, Gaetz S, Tarasuk V.
Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 2016;27(3):1303-15.
[Abstract]

Food Bank Usage Is a Poor Indicator of Food Insecurity: Insights from Canada
Loopstra R, Tarasuk V.
Social Policy and Society 2015; 14(3): 443-455
[Abstract]

A survey of food bank operations in five Canadian cities
Tarasuk V, Dachner N, Hamelin AM, Ostry A, Williams P, Bosckei E, Poland B, Raine K.
BMC Public Health 2014, 14:1234
[Free Full Text]

Traditional and Alternative Community Food Security Interventions in Montréal, Québec: Different Practices, Different People
Roncarolo F, Adam C, Bisset S, Potvin L.
Journal of Community Health 2014 [Epub ahead of print]
[Abstract]

Perspectives on Community Gardens, Community Kitchens and the Good Food Box Program in a Community-based Sample of Low-income Families
Loopstra R, Tarasuk V.
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2013;104(1):e55-e59.
[Abstract]

The Relationship between Food Banks and Household Food Insecurity among Low-Income Toronto Families
Loopstra R, Tarasuk V.
Canadian Public Policy 2012;38(4):497-514.
[Abstract]

Sweet Charity, Revisited: Organizational Responses to Food Insecurity in Hamilton and Toronto, Canada.
Wakefield S, Fleming J, Klassen C, Skinner A.
Critical Social Policy 2012; Oct 8 [Epub ahead of print].
[Abstract]

Notes for food security from the standpoint of Canadian households participating and not participating in community food programmes.
Hamelin AM, Mercier C, Bedard A.
International Journal of Consumer Studies 2011;35:58-68.
[Abstract]

An ethnographic study of meal programs for homeless and under-housed individuals in Toronto.
Dachner N, Gaetz S, Poland B, Tarasuk V.
Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 2009;20(3):846-53.
[Abstract]

The proliferation of charitable meal programs in Toronto.
Tarasuk V, Dachner N.
Canadian Public Policy 2009; 35(4): 433-450.
[Abstract]

Food insecurity and participation in community food programs among low-income Toronto families.
Kirkpatrick S, Tarasuk V.
Canadian Journal of Public Health  2009; 100: 135-138.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

Charitable feeding programs Victoria, BC.
Bocskei E, & Ostry A.
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research 2010; 71(1): 46-8.
[Abstract]

Discomforting comfort foods: stirring the pot on Kraft dinner and social inequality in Canada.
Rock M, McIntyre L, Rondeau K.
Agriculture and Human Values 2008; 26(3): 167-176.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

Perceptions of needs and responses in food security: divergence between households and stakeholders.
Hamelin AM, Mercier C, Bedard A.
Public Health Nutrition 2008;11(12):1389-96.
[Abstract]

Nutritional assessment of charitable meal programs serving homeless people in Toronto.
Tse C,  Tarasuk V.
Public Health Nutrition 2008;11(12):1296-1305.
[Abstract]

Exploring food security with collective kitchens participants in three Canadian cities.
Engler-Stringer R, Berenbaum S.
Qualitative Health Research 2007;17(1):75-84.
[Abstract]

Can food banks sustain nutrient requirements? A case study in Southwestern Ontario.
Irwin JD, Ng VK, Rush TJ, Nguyen C, He M.
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2007;98(1):17-20.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

‘Managing’ homeless youth in Toronto: mismanaging food access and nutritional well-being.
Gaetz S,  Dachner N, Kirkpatrick S, Tarasuk V.
Canadian Review of Social Policy 2006; 58:43-61.
[Abstract]

Nutritional quality and price of university food bank hampers.
Willows ND, Au V.
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research 2006;67(2):104-7.
[Abstract]

Collective kitchens in Canada: a review of the literature.
Engler-Stringer R, Berenbaum S.
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research 2005;66(4):246-51.
[Abstract]

Food assistance through ‘surplus’ food: insights from an ethnographic study of food bank work.
Tarasuk V, Eakin JM.
Agriculture and Human Values 2005;22:177-86.
[Abstract]

Eating outside the box: FoodShare’s good food box and the challenge of scale.
Johnston J, Baker L.
Agriculture and Human Values 2005;22:313-25.
[Abstract]

The ‘wonderfulness’ of children’s feeding programs.
Williams PL, McIntyre L, Dayle JB, Raine K.
Health Promotion International 2003;18(2):163-70.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

The failure of charitable school- and community-based nutrition programs to feed hungry children.
Raine K, McIntyre L, Dayle JB.
Critical Public Health. 2003;13(2):155-169.
[Abstract]

An examination of Canada Prenatal Nutrition Programs and child nutrition programs in relation to household food insecurity.
Vozoris N, Tarasuk V.
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research 2003;51:67-86.
[Free Full Text]

Charitable food assistance as symbolic gesture: an ethnographic study of food banks in Ontario.
Tarasuk V, Eakin JM.
Social Science & Medicine 2003;56:1505-15.
[Abstract]

The institutionalization of children’s feeding programs in Atlantic Canada.
McIntyre L, Raine K, Dayle JB.
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research 2001;62(2):53-7.
[Abstract]

The dragnet of children’s feeding programs in Atlantic Canada.
Dayle JB, McIntyre L, Raine-Travers KD.
Social Science & Medicine 2000;51:1783-93.
[Abstract]