Public policy and public programs to address food insecurity

Household food insecurity is a public health problem, but its causes are rooted in poverty, and thus potential interventions may lie in social policy. A thorough examination of the impact of social policy on household food insecurity has been impeded in Canada by the nature of the available data: household food insecurity is measured on a health survey (i.e. the Canadian Community Health Survey) that contains limited questions that are relevant to social policy. However, there is evidence that policy impacts household food insecurity. Most notably, the majority of people reliant on social assistance in Canada are food insecure, suggesting that these programs are not designed in ways that enable many recipients to meet basic household needs. Research has also examined the relationship of household food insecurity to policies related to energy cost subsidies, housing subsidies, and agricultural subsidies related to milk.

There is no comprehensive policy framework in Canada designed to address food insecurity either federally or at the provincial or territorial level. Many provinces have enacted poverty reduction strategies, but household food insecurity has not been an explicit focus of these strategies, nor has their impact on household food insecurity been evaluated.  There has been very little written on these policies from a food security perspective, but some research suggests that current strategies in Quebec, which include support for emergency food programs, are insufficient to address food insecurity and disconnected from the desires and needs of food insecure households.

There has been considerable criticism about Canada’s lack of a coordinated policy response to food insecurity. Although food banks and other charitable food programs continue to grow across the country, there is little evidence that community-based initiatives that are largely reliant on donated food and labour have the capacity to effectively address the very serious food problems facing the nearly one million households in Canada who struggle with food insecurity. Further, there is concern that these initiatives perpetuate the problem of household food insecurity and allow the government to abdicate responsibility. Internationally, Canada’s approach to food insecurity has been criticized with respect to adherence to international agreements to advance the human right to food.

The following articles present research on public policy and public programs to address food insecurity:

A natural experimental study of the protective effect of home ownership on household food insecurity in Canada before and after a recession (2008–2009)
McIntyre L, Wu X, Kwok C, Emery H
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2017; 108(2), e135–e144.
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High vulnerability to household food insecurity in a sample of Canadian renter households in government-subsidized housing
Fafard St-Germain AA, Tarasuk V
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2017; 108(2), e129–e134.
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Food assistance programs and food insecurity: implications for Canada in light of the mixing problem
Gundersen C, Kreider B, Pepper J, Tarasuk V
Empirical Economics 2017; 1-23
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The impact of changes in social policies on household food insecurity in British Columbia, 2005–2012
Li N, Dachner N, Tarasuk V
Preventive Medicine 2016; 93, 151-158.
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A framing analysis of Canadian household food insecurity policy illustrates co-construction of an intractable problem
McIntyre L, Patterson PB, Mah CL
Critical Policy Studies 2016. Published online ahead of print
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A great or heinous idea?: Why food waste diversion renders policy discussants apoplectic
McIntyre L, Patterson PB, Anderson LC, Mah CL
Critical Public Health 2016. Published online ahead of print
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Reduction of Food Insecurity among Low-Income Canadian Seniors as a Likely Impact of a Guaranteed Annual Income
McIntyre L, Dutton DJ, Kwok C, Emery JC
Canadian Public Policy 2016; 42(3), 274-286.
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Impact of a guaranteed annual income program on Canadian seniors’ physical, mental and functional health
McIntyre L, Kwok C, Emery JC, Dutton DJ
Canadian Journal of Public Health 2016; 107(2): e176.
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Legislation Debated as Responses to Household Food Insecurity in Canada, 1995–2012
McIntyre L, Lukic R, Patterson P, Anderson L, Mah C
Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition 2016. Published online ahead of print
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Political rhetoric from Canada can inform healthy public policy argumentation
Patterson P, McIntyre L, Anderson LC, Mah CL
Health Promotion International, 2016. Published online ahead of print
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Household Food Insecurity in Canada: Problem Definition and Potential Solutions in the Public Policy Domain
McIntyre L, Patterson P, Anderson L, Mah C
Canadian Public Policy 2016; 42(1), 83-93
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“In”-sights about food banks from a critical interpretive synthesis of the academic literature
McIntyre L, Tougas D, Rondeau K, Mah CL
Agriculture and Human Values 2015. Published online ahead of print
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An Exploration of the Unprecedented Decline in the Prevalence of Household Food Insecurity in Newfoundland and Labrador, 2007-2012.
Loopstra R, Dachner N, Tarasuk V
Canadian Public Policy 2015; 41(3), 191-206.
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Homeowner versus non-homeowner differences in household food insecurity in Canada
McIntyre L, Wu X, Fleisch VC, Emery JCH.
J Hous and the Built Environ 2015; DOI 10.1007/s10901-015-9461-6
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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
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A difference-in-differences approach to estimate the effect of income-supplementation on food insecurity
Ionescu-Ittu R, Glymour MM, Kaufman JS.
Prev Med. 2015; 70:108-16
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A frame-critical policy analysis of Canada’s response to the World Food Summit 1998-2008
Mah CL, Hamill C, Rondeau K, McIntyre L.
Archives of Public Health 2014; 72(41)
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Food banks, welfare, and food insecurity in Canada
Tarasuk V, Dachner N, Loopstra R.
British Food Journal 2014; 116(9):1405-1417
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How a guaranteed annual income could put food banks out of business
Emery JCH, Fleisch VC, McIntyre L.
SPP Research Papers 2013; 6(37):1-20.
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Legislated changes to federal pension income in Canada will adversely affect low income seniors’ health
Emerya JCH, Fleisch VC, McIntyre L.
Preventive Medicine 2013; 57(6):963-66.
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Food insecurity: could school food supplementation help break cycles of intergenerational transmission of social inequalities?
Roustit C, Hamelin AM, Grillo F, Martin J, Chauvin P.
Pediatrics 2010; 126(6):1174-81.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

Evidence of the association between household food insecurity and heating cost inflation in Canada from 1998–2001.
Emery JCH, Bartoo AC, Matheson J, Ferrer A, Kirkpatrick SI, Tarasuk V, McIntyre L.
Canadian Public Policy 2012; 38(2):181-215.
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The Impact of the National School Lunch Program on Child Health: A Nonparametric Bounds Analysis.
Gundersen C,  Kreider B,  Pepper, J.
Journal of Econometrics 2012; 166:79-91.
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The Economics of Food Insecurity in the United States.
Gundersen C,  Kreider B,  Pepper J.
Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 2011; 33(3):281-303.
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Food insecurity policy is not the flip side of food security policy.
McIntyre L.
Policy Options 2011; 32(7):48-51.
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Housing circumstances are associated with household food access among low-income urban families.
Kirkpatrick S, Tarasuk V.
Journal of Urban Health 2011; 88(2):284-96.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

Food insecurity among Latin American recent immigrants in Toronto.
Vahabi M, Damba C, Rocha C, Montoya EC.
Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health 2011; 13(5): 929-939.
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Milk Insecurity: Accounts of a new food insecurity phenomenon in Canada and its relation to public policy.
Williams PL, McIntyre L, Glanville NT.
Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition 2010; 5(2):142-157.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]

The Challenge of Program Evaluation: When Increasing Program Participation Decreases the Relative Well-Being of Participants.
Gundersen  C, Jolliffe D, Tiehen L.
Food Policy. 2009; 34:367– 376.
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Lutte contre la pauvreté et sécurité alimentaire au Québec: comparaison de la logique d’intervention gouvernementale et du discours des acteurs du terrain.
Hamelin AM, Mercier C, Gauthier J.
Canadian Review of Social Policy 2008; 60-61.
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Bringing home the right to food in Canada: challenges and possibilities for achieving food security.
Rideout K, Riches G, Ostry A, Buckingham D, MacRae R.
Public Health Nutrition 2007; 10(6):566-73.
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Determinants of variation in food cost and availability in two socioeconomically contrasting neighbourhoods of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Latham J, Moffat T.
Health and Place 2007; 13(1): 273-287.
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Food banks and food security: welfare reform, human rights and social policy.  Lessons from Canada?
Riches G.
Social Policy & Administration 2002; 36(6):648-63.
[Abstract] [Free Full Text]