An Examination of Charitable Meal Programs in Five Canadian cities

While there has recently been considerable research and public investment in strategies to address homelessness in Canada, food charity remains the primary response to hunger, with little evaluation of current efforts and no initiatives to develop more effective approaches. Using data from a 2010–2011 survey of charitable food assistance in five Canadian cities, this study was undertaken to describe charitable meal provisioning in each city and to compare the relative roles of emergency programs and multi-service agencies and their capacity to meet food needs. Most meals were provided by multi-service agencies, but like emergency programs, these agencies were heavily dependent on donations and they were more likely than emergency programs to report constraints and service interruptions because demands exceeded available supplies. Our findings underscore the resource-limited and often fragile nature of charitable meal programs in Canada and highlight the need for more effective models of response to problems of hunger.

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Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved