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Competing Discourses of Household Food Insecurity in Canada

  • Zsofia Mendly-Zambo (a1) and Dennis Raphael (a2)


Household food insecurity (HFI) impacts over 1.7 million households in Canada with adverse effects upon health. As a signatory to numerous international covenants asserting that access to food is a human right, Canadian governments are obliged to reduce HFI, yet Canadian governments have done remarkably little to assure that Canadians are food secure. In the absence of government action, HFI has spawned numerous non-governmental means of managing the problem such as food banks, feeding programs, and community gardens and kitchens. These efforts have depoliticized the problem of HFI, making its solution more difficult. Solving HFI is also complicated by the presence of five competing discourses of HFI in Canada: nutrition and dietetics, charitable food distribution, community development, social determinants of health, and political economy which offer differing causes and means of responding to HFI. We argue that the least considered discourse – the critical materialist political economy discourse – best accounts for the presence of HFI in a liberal welfare state such as Canada and provides the most effective means of responding to its presence.



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