FeedBack is a reflections blog authored by the AFI-HQP Grad Scholars on their experiences in the program. Katherine Eckert is an Arrell Scholar working toward a PhD in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition.
When COVID-19 struck in March of 2020, many Canadians lost employment. At the same time, food systems were strained by disturbances to value chains causing temporary food shortages. While our food system has proven to be remarkably resilient, research suggests that both job loss (Statistics Canada, 2021) and food insecurity (Statistics Canada, 2020) have increased.
Food insecurity refers to a lack of consistent access to sufficient food and is linked with poor mental and physical health (Tarasuk et al, 2020). Approximately 1 in 7 Canadians experience food insecurity (Statistics Canada, 2020). Chances are, either you or someone you know has been food insecure at some point in their lives. The root cause of food insecurity is poverty, or a lack of financial resources (Tarasuk et al, 2020). Food security initiatives that do not address poverty cannot make long-term changes to food insecurity; however, programs such as food banks and community kitchens are critical to provide access to food in times of urgent need.
To address the greater need for emergency access to food during these unprecedented times, innovative food security adaptations have arisen. Our project aims to identify innovative food security initiatives across Canada and describe characteristics of initiatives with the potential to be expanded.
To achieve this aim, our group conducted a review of food insecurity initiatives across all provinces and territories. Through collaboration with our partners at Agriculture and Agri-foods Canada, we selected 8 initiatives based on their scores for innovation and creativity, partnerships fostered, and use of multidisciplinary approaches. We then contacted initiatives to invite them to participate in a two-part study consisting of a survey and an interview. Our results will describe themes emerging and learnings from our research.
Completing this group project during a pandemic has been challenging; yet, I believe it has contributed to our growth and success as a team. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our meetings have all occurred online. Although we would love to meet in-person, our virtual connection has allowed us to be more flexible when scheduling meetings and adapting to changes. Working together as an interdisciplinary team during a time of adversity, it has been reassuring and comforting to realize that we are experiencing similar struggles. Although we have diverse educational and personal backgrounds, we share the experience of starting graduate studies during a global pandemic. It has been a privilege to collaborate with a supportive and hard-working team and I look forward to the next steps of our study and presenting our results to the class!
Statistics Canada. (2020). Food insecurity during the Covid-19 pandemic. Retrieved
Statistics Canada. (2021). Labour force survey, December 2020. Retrieved from
Tarasuk V, Mitchell A. (2020). Household food insecurity in Canada, 2017-2018. Toronto:
Research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity (PROOF). Retrieved from https://proof.utoronto.ca/