An ethnographic study of meal programs for homeless and under-housed individuals in Toronto.

Over the past two decades, Canada has witnessed a proliferation of community-based initiatives providing charitable meals to homeless and under-housed individuals. The existing research has raised concerns about the ability of such initiatives to meet users' nutrient needs. As part of a study of Toronto meal programs, open-ended interviews with program coordinators and observations of 16 meal programs were conducted to provide insight into the nutritional vulnerability of program users. Analysis using ethnographic methods revealed that, although charitable meal programs began in response to concerns about unmet food needs, the planning and delivery of meals are disconnected from the dietary needs of program users. Food was often a secondary service, designed to fit within the existing operations, resources, and mandate of the host agency. This work adds to calls for a rethinking of current responses to problems of hunger and food insecurity among individuals living in poverty in Canada.

Publication Date: 
Journal Name: 
Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved