OBJECTIVE: Growing recognition of the problem of household food insecurity in Canada has meant public health practitioners are looking for effective ways to ameliorate this problem in their communities. Community gardens, community kitchens, and food box programs can offer nutritious foods for comparably lower costs, however, the uptake and perceptions of these programs in populations at risk of food insecurity have not been evaluated. Building on a previous finding of low program participation among 485 families living in high-poverty neighbourhoods in Toronto, the objective of this study was to understand reasons for non-participation.
METHODS: One year after the baseline study, 371 families were interviewed a second time and were asked to provide their reasons for not participating in community gardens, community kitchens, or the Good Food Box program. Responses were analyzed by inductive content analysis.
RESULTS: At follow-up, only 12 families had participated in a community garden, 16 in a community kitchen, and 4 in the Good Food Box program. Reasons for non-participation grouped under two themes. First, families expressed that programs were not accessible because they lacked the knowledge of how or where to participate or because programs were not in their neighbourhoods. Second, programs lacked fit for families, as they were not suited to busy schedules, interests, or needs.
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides unique perspective on participation in community food programs among food-insecure families and suggests that these programs may not be effective options for these families to improve their food access.