Food Insecurity and Community Food Programs in Toronto 

A research paper done by Racheal Loopstra and Valerie Tarasuk (2013) showed the results of a study in which 371 low-income families were interviewed in order to find out what their relationship with community gardens, community kitchens and Good Food Boxes were.  Loopstra and Tarasuk (2013) wanted to discover why, or why nor these families were involved in these three types of programs listed.   

In the discussion, the questionnaire format used to communicate with the families was critiqued because it limited the questions asked and as aresult may have allowed families to oversimplify their answers (Loopstra, Tarasuk 58). A more in-depth study and questionnaire would allow participants to speak more, and get deeper into what factors were preventing them from choosing to use food programs (Loopstra, Tarasuk 58).  This would give policy makers and those researching food insecurity a better idea of what would be appealing, since, as it stands the study did not promote ideas that could spark better solutions. 

I believe that the main problem at the end of the day is the impression that we all need for money to survive in a city.  We live in a consumer society, surrounded by stores and building, and so to see the possibility of self sustainability as a solution is difficult. We do not see the land surrounding us as an income generator, at least for the greater majority of city dwellers. As well, I feel like it seems a bit ironic to tell the poorest city dwellers to grow their own food, as if we were suggesting for them to revert to the olden days when the peasants were always the ones living off the land.  And although I say this, I also believe in the possible success of community gardens, but I think that in order for them to become successful and helpful to lower class citizens they have to become much more accessible and better funded.  

Community programs are limited in funding and as a result are often run by volunteers (Loopstra Tarasuk 58).  Therefore they suggest time, dedication and effort to be placed in their existence and use, concepts that could create an inclusive feel to the programs and make outsiders feel deterred by the idea, especially those who would not have time or energy to contribute much.  The study shows that the participating low income population may have an issue participating due to a high percentage of single parents (almost half of the studies families), chronic health conditions and work (Loopstra, Tarasu 58).   

Unfortunately, the study did not appear to ask for suggestions on what could be improved for families who did use community gardens and the Good Food Box Program and suggestions that might convince  people to participate in community food programs.  A deeper study into the reasons why they do not go would be very helpful. 

By asking for suggestions, low-income families would be given the opportunity and power to change their living situations for the better, since they would know what is needed most.   It would be a positive change, instead of what is commonly done; the government imposing what they believe would be good for the citizens, and as a result, having the upper hand by being able to blame the citizens for not using the programs provided for them.  

 Yet, for all this people need time and energy, all of which is easily taken up by the need for immediate money and food.  It is a circular cycle that could be changed if the government was willing, or pushed to change some of the obstacles preventing low-income families from becoming as successful as they would like to be.  

Loopstra, R and Tarasuk, V. 2013.  Perspectives on Community Gardens, Kitchens and the Good Food Box Program in a Community-based Sample of Low-income Families. Canadian Journal of Public Health, January/Febuary,55-59.


2 thoughts on “

  1. I often wonder if all those community programs such as community garden are actually efficient in helping low-income families. As you said, “it seems a bit ironic to tell the poorest city dwellers to grow their own food,” growing their own fruits and vegetable is such a hard and long labour. Even cooking itself is an exhausting process to do. Low-income families tend to not have much time to invest their spare time, because they are busy to earn as much money as possible. And telling them to invest their time and energy into growing food just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

  2. I think you’re right in saying that it would have been very beneficial to ask the respondents what could be done to make food programs more accessible. While these studies were, and still are, instrumental in drawing attention to an issue that definitely needs to be addressed further, a solution needs to be found and implemented as soon as possible. As the guest speaker this week pointed out, there is no sure cure at the moment, and no concrete productive way for one to help alleviate this issue from the ground, so it would seem necessary then to conduct a follow up study to ask community members what would be best in optimizing accessibility, and perhaps the effectiveness of a campaign to end the stigma surrounding the use of these services should be looked into as well.

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