Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Canadian Food Banks and the Depoliticization of Food Insecurity at the Individual and Community Levels

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Canadian Food Banks and the Depoliticization of Food Insecurity at the Individual and Community Levels

Article excerpt


The political implications of food banks and food insecurity on the federal, provincial and private-sector levels have been documented and emphasized by Canadian social scientists. However, it is equally important to gain a comprehensive understanding of the political impact on the community level. This paper addresses the impact of food banks on the community level, through an examination of documents from a prominent B.C. food bank. This research provides a discourse analysis of documentation from a prominent British Columbia food bank. Overall, 1,391 documents were analyzed, totalling 3,285 pages and covering the period from 1989 to 2008. Three different discourses are exposed through this analysis: first, individualization and immediacy regarding food insecure individuals; second, community membership and responsibility; and, third, differentiation of services provided to food bank users. It is concluded that the production of these discourses, along with the implementation of particular policies and procedures within food banks, are key processes that are diminishing the possibility of a political conceptualization of food insecurity.


Les implications politque aux niveau fédéral, provincial, et le secteur-privé de l'éxistence des banques alimentaires et l'insécurité alimentaires sont documentés par les scientifiques sociales canadienne. Néamoins, c'est aussi important de mieux comprendre son impact au niveau communautaire. Cet article trace l'impact des banques alimentaires a ce niveau à travers d'un examen des documents d' une banque alimentaire marquant dans la Colombie-Britannique. Un total de 1,391 documents, de 1989 jusqu'à 2008 étaient analysé. Trois discours distincts son exposée à travers de cette analyse: le premier c'est l'individualisation des gens souffrent l'insécurité; le deuxième c'est l'appartenance à et la responsibilité de la communauté aux usagers; le dernier discours c'est la différenciation entre les services offerts aux usagers des banques alimentaires. Les auteurs concluent que l'influence de ces éléments avec l'implimentation des politiques particuliers sont les processus clé qui diminuent la possibilité de former un concept clair de l'insécurité alimentaire.


Many Canadian social scientists have indicated the need to understand food banks within a greater political context. Their origins, institutionalization and entrenchment in society in addition to their collective interactions with federal, provincial and corporate bodies should be examined with greater scrutiny (Riches, Buckingham, MacRae, Ostry, 2004; Riches 2002; Tarasuk, 2001; Davis & Tarasuk, 1994). However, the proliferation and institutionalization of food banks is also repeatedly cited as having a profound effect on the perception of food insecurity and the food insecure; one that is criticized as devoid of political understanding (Day, 2007; Rock, 2006; Riches, 2002; Power, 1999; Curtis, 1997). Concerning the problems of Canadian hunger and food insecurity, Valerie Tarasuk and Barbra Davis (1996) note, "it is important to recognize that the way that a problem gets defined or typified shapes responses to it" (p. 72). For instance, recognition of a rights-based understanding of food situates food insecurity within a political context (Levoke, 2006) and directs hunger relief toward government responsibility. However, Tarasuk and Davis also suggest that an "awareness of the possibility of a response or 'solution' to a problem influences the recognition of a problem and contributes to the eventual definition of it" (1996:72).

Consequently, if hunger and food insecurity are not understood within a political context, the expected role of government may be limited. The aim of this paper is to examine how food bank discourses and understandings of poverty, specifically those pertaining to food insecurity, relate to the policies and practices of providing food relief at the community and the individual levels. …

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