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

Patricia A. Collins, Elaine M. Power, Margaret H. Little


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: “charitable”, “household improvements and supports” and “community food systems”. 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.


Food insecurity; municipalities; program evaluation; poverty; social policy; Canada

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