Breadlines, victory gardens, or human rights?: Examining food insecurity discourses in Canada


  • Audrey Tung University of Victoria
  • Reuben Rose-Redwood
  • Denise Cloutier



human rights, household food insecurity, social policy, welfare state


Long before the exacerbating effects of COVID-19, household food insecurity (HFI) has been a persistent yet hidden problem in wealthy nations such as Canada, where it has been perpetuated in part through dominant discourses and practices. In this critique of HFI-related frameworks, we suggest that discourses organized around the production and (re)distribution of food, rather than income inequality, have misdirected household food insecurity reduction activities away from the central issue of poverty, even inadvertently enabling the ongoing neoliberal “rollback” of safety net functions. Unlike most scholarship that focuses on the politics of food systems, or health research that insufficiently politicizes poverty, this analysis emphasizes the role of politics in income discourses. In spite of their contradictions, food-provisioning- and income-based discourses are potentially complementary in their shared recognition of the right to food. Operating from the perspective of political economic theory, we conceive of the right to food as a claim not only to a resource but also to membership within political communities that envision alternatives to neoliberalism as manifested in our labour, welfare, and food systems. In this sense, the right to food offers a unifying framework that links civil society with senior governments, collective action with legal instruments, and food and income concerns. HFI reduction activities organized around the right to food may thus aim to rectify cross-cutting imbalances in political and economic power.




How to Cite

Tung, A., Rose-Redwood, R., & Cloutier, D. (2022). Breadlines, victory gardens, or human rights?: Examining food insecurity discourses in Canada. Canadian Food Studies / La Revue Canadienne Des études Sur l’alimentation, 9(2), 249–275.