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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 105, Issue 2, pp e138–e141 | Cite as

Municipal-level responses to household food insecurity in Canada: A call for critical, evaluative research

  • Patricia A. Collins
  • Elaine M. Power
  • Margaret H. Little
Commentary

Abstract

Household food insecurity (HFI) is a persistent public health problem affecting 3.8 million Canadians. While the causes of HFI are rooted in income insecurity, solutions to HFI have been primarily food-based, with the bulk of activity occurring at the municipal level across Canada. We conceptualize these municipal-level actions as falling within three models: “charitablerd, “household improvements and supportsrd and “community food systemsrd. Many initiatives, especially non-charitable ones, generate widespread support, as they aim to increase participants’ food security using an empowering and dignified approach. While these initiatives may offer some benefits to their participants, preliminary research suggests that any food-based solution to an income-based problem will have limited reach to food-insecure households and limited impact on participants’ experience of HFI. We suspect that widespread support for the local-level food-based approach to HFI has impeded critical judgement of the true potential of these activities to reduce HFI. As these initiatives grow in number across Canada, we are in urgent need of comprehensive and comparative research to evaluate their impact on HFI and to ensure that municipal-level action on HFI is evidence-based.

Keywords

Food insecurity municipalities program evaluation poverty social policy Canada 

Résumé

L’insécurité alimentaire des ménages (IAM) est un problème de santé publique tenace qui touche 3,8 millions de Canadiens. Ses causes sont ancrées dans l’insécurité financière, mais ses solutions sont principalement fondées sur l’alimentation, le gros des efforts étant entrepris à l’échelle municipale au Canada. Nous avons classé ces actions municipales en trois modèles possibles: «bienfaisance», «améliorations et mesures de soutien aux ménages» et «systèmes alimentaires communautaires». De nombreuses initiatives, surtout celles sans vocation de bienfaisance, reçoivent un appui massif, car elles visent à accroître la sécurité alimentaire des participants selon une démarche d’autonomisation et de respect de la dignité. Ces initiatives peuvent procurer certains avantages à leurs participants, mais selon des études préliminaires, toute solution fondée sur l’alimentation à un problème lié au revenu aura une portée limitée auprès des ménages aux prises avec l’insécurité alimentaire et un impact limité sur l’expérience d’IAM des participants. Nous soupçonnons que l’appui massif aux démarches alimentaires locales pour contrer l’IAM entrave le jugement critique du véritable potentiel de ces activités pour réduire l’IAM. Avec l’augmentation du nombre de ces initiatives au Canada, il existe un urgent besoin de mener des études complètes et comparatives pour en évaluer l’impact sur l’IAM et pour s’assurer que l’action municipale de lutte contre l’IAM est fondée sur des données probantes.

Mots clés

insécurité alimentaire municipalités évaluation de programme pauvreté politique sociale Canada 

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia A. Collins
    • 1
  • Elaine M. Power
    • 2
  • Margaret H. Little
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Urban and Regional PlanningQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.School of Kinesiology and Health StudiesQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  3. 3.Departments of Political Studies and Gender StudiesQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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