Household food insecurity, the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints, is a serious public health problem in Canada. PROOF is an interdisciplinary research program studying effective policy approaches to reduce it.

Main Objective

The main focus of this research program is to identify policy interventions to reduce household food insecurity in Canada. The lack of knowledge on what policies are effective and the limited awareness of the scale and seriousness of food insecurity has allowed the problem to fester. PROOF’s research and knowledge translation aim to overcome these barriers to action.

Research Leadership

Over the past decade, PROOF’s work has helped establish food insecurity as a serious public health problem, a marker of pervasive material deprivation, and a matter of public policy. Our examinations of policy interventions have shown that increases to the incomes of low-income households reduce their risk of food insecurity.

Popularizing food insecurity statistics

Having accurate information on how many people experience food insecurity and why is critical for policy makers, public health planners, and advocacy groups to take action. PROOF publishes status reports with accessible summaries and analyses of data collected by Statistics Canada. These reports have popularized the use of these statistics to describe this problem.

Our story

PROOF began in 2011 as a five-year research program, funded by a Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) Programmatic Grant to Tackle Health and Health Equity. It has continued since as a leading voice on food insecurity in Canada.

The PROOF for policy action on food insecurity

The name, PROOF, came from the suggestion of the late Cathleen Kneen, a leader in Canada’s food movement, at an early knowledge translation meeting. The idea was that the research coming out of this research program would be the “proof” that would drive policy action on this serious problem.

Founding Investigators

Dr. Valerie Tarasuk is a Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, cross-appointed to the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, at the University of Toronto.

She leads PROOF as the program’s Principal Investigator and has worked to elucidate the scope, nature, and health implications of this problem in Canada, assess the effectiveness of community responses, and determine how public policies and programs impact food insecurity prevalence and severity.

University of Toronto

Dr. Craig Gundersen is the Snee Family Endowed Chair at the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty (BCHP), a Professor in the Department of Economics at Baylor University, and a founding co-principal investigator of PROOF.

His research is primarily focused on the causes and consequences of food insecurity and on evaluations of food assistance programs, with a particular emphasis on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as the Food Stamp Program).

Baylor University

Dr. Herb Emery is the Vaughan Chair in Regional Economics and a Professor of Economics at the University of New Brunswick, and a founding PROOF co-investigator.

His research interests focus on the sustainability and reform of public health care in Canada, Canadian economic development, and Canadian labour markets.  His work includes examinations of the relationship between household food insecurity and heating costs and the impact of Canada’s Old Age Security program on food insecurity and health among seniors.

University of New Brunswick

Dr. Lynn McIntyre is Professor Emerita of Community Health Sciences at University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, a member of the Order of Canada, and a founding PROOF co-investigator.

Over her career, Lynn’s research has been focused on influencing policy that will reduce household level food insecurity in Canada. Lynn’s preferred policy solution for household food insecurity in Canada has become Basic Income and to this end, she remains actively associated with groups like the Basic Income Canada Network.

University of Calgary

Dr. Catherine L. Mah is the Canada Research Chair in Promoting Healthy Populations, an Associate Professor in the School of Health Administration and director of Food Policy Lab at Dalhousie University, and a founding PROOF co-investigator.

She is a basic income advocate and was co-lead of policy projects with Dr. Lynn McIntyre. Their work together examined policy rhetoric and framing of food insecurity in Canada over two decades.

Dalhousie University

Dr. Paul Kurdyak is the Director of Health Outcomes and Performance Evaluation in the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research and Medical Director of Performance Improvement at CAMH, and founding PROOF co-investigator.

He is also Lead of the Mental Health and Addictions Research Program at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), and a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.


Dr. Jürgen Rehm is Senior Scientist in the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research and in the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at CAMH, and founding PROOF co-investigator.

He is Professor and Inaugural Chair of Addiction Policy in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.


PROOF’s research and reporting of household food insecurity statistics are regularly covered in the media.