The Experience of Food Insecurity Among Immigrants: a Scoping Review

  • Merryn MaynardEmail author
  • Jennifer Dean
  • Paulina I. Rodriguez
  • Gobika Sriranganathan
  • Mona Qutub
  • Sharon I. KirkpatrickEmail author


Rates of household food insecurity among immigrant populations in Canada and the USA suggest high vulnerability, yet the experience of food insecurity within these groups is not well understood. This scoping review was undertaken to examine the state of knowledge and gaps in the evidence on food insecurity among immigrants in high-income nations. A systematic search for studies carried out in Canada, the USA, Australia, and the UK and published between January 1996 and January 2016 was conducted using the CINAHL, EMBASE, PubMed, and Web of Science databases. Records were screened for relevance using predetermined inclusion criteria; 36 articles examining food insecurity among immigrant populations, primarily in the USA with three studies conducted in Canada, were identified. Overall, the literature suggests high rates of food insecurity among immigrant compared to nonimmigrant populations. Factors associated with food insecurity are largely consistent with those conceptualized in other populations (e.g., relating to financial sufficiency) but also include cultural considerations and access to immigration documentation. High-quality longitudinal and in-depth qualitative research could help to shed light on the directionality of relationships between food insecurity and hypothesized risk factors and consequences, but in the meantime, attention to problems of constrained food access among immigrants is increasingly important as rates of global migration rise in response to threats posed by climate change, economic instability, and social inequalities.


Food insecurity Immigrant Migration Health Scoping review 



The authors are grateful to Drs. Lisbeth Berbary and Steffanie Scott for their input to the early stages of this review, as well as to Jackie Stapleton at the University of Waterloo Library for her guidance on the search strategy.

Financial Support

This work was supported by a Chronic Disease Prevention Initiative Seed Grant from the University of Waterloo. Sharon Kirkpatrick is funded by a Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute Capacity Development Award (702855). The Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute had no role in the design, analysis, or writing of this article.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Merryn Maynard
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer Dean
    • 2
  • Paulina I. Rodriguez
    • 2
  • Gobika Sriranganathan
    • 3
  • Mona Qutub
    • 3
  • Sharon I. Kirkpatrick
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Meal ExchangeTorontoCanada
  2. 2.School of Planning, Faculty of EnvironmentUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  3. 3.School of Public Health and Health Systems, Faculty of Applied Health SciencesUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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