Bringing everyone to the table: the rise of community fresh food programs in Ontario’s small and medium-sized cities

Thumbnail Image
Sage, Morgan
Food Insecurity , Food Security , Community Food Project , Fresh Food Programs
Like hunger, food banks are widespread and found in nearly every community across Canada. The food bank model is an insufficient response to hunger and ignores the root cause of food insecurity: income. There is an increasingly popular approach to food security through a community food program model that has the potential to reduce stigma, build community, and challenge class divides. The purpose of this research is to examine community fresh food programming performed in Ontario’s small- and medium-sized urban areas. This includes determining what organizations run programming, the extent to which they operate, and the impact of fresh food programs. To answer these questions, I compiled a database of organizations, administered phone surveys for those who participated in fresh food programming, performed in-depth interviews with select organizations, and acted as a participant observer to community food programs through my position as a Mitacs intern in Prince Rupert, BC. There were four major findings from this research. First, place is elemental to food work. Organizations often respond to place-based needs, and perform relationship-dependant, community-centred work at the local scale. Second, food can be used as a means to achieve other goals unrelated to food security and food insecurity, such as building food skills, bringing people together, building community, generating resiliency, breaking down barriers, building networks, increasing understanding of systemic issues, empowering people, and increasing civic engagement. Third, the actions of governments have a significant impact on the lives of people living in poverty and who are food insecure. Policy changes to social assistance and income are needed to eradicate food insecurity. Finally, food rescue is not a solution to either food waste nor food insecurity. Rather, food rescue is a resource drain for emergency food services in terms of time, energy, and finances. Food rescue acts as an ‘in the meantime’ solution that neglects to address the systemic cause of either issue. This study seeks to contribute to the literature on changing community food models. It also aims to inform policymakers of the challenges and areas for improvement within the charitable food and community food program sectors.
External DOI