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Impacts of perceived COVID-19 risks & adaptive management strategies on food security programming in Toronto

Towards more resilient and equitable systems

woman with medical mask loading vegetables into van

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated risk management strategies are exacerbating food insecurity and health inequalities across Canada. Physical distancing, travel restrictions, service closures, stay-at-home advisories are disrupting supply chains, food production & distribution, and personal and community control over one’s relationship with food. Imposed public health ordinances have forced organizations to rapidly adapt their food security operations. Many alternative food initiatives have had to narrow their spectrum of programs to more reactionary emergency services such as food hampers and/or prepared meal distribution programs. Further, uncertainties surrounding ‘essential services’, and the lack of sanitation and personal protection equipment for food system staff/volunteers contributed to the closure of  > 40% of programs in Toronto (including those hosted in community centres, churches, and youth organizations). This reduction in diversity of supply and distribution channels has rendered the food system vulnerable, the impacts of which are experienced inequitably across society with the poor, elderly, those with pre-existing physical and mental health conditions or special dietary needs, indigenous peoples, newcomers, refugees and other racialized minorities facing disproportionate risk to having their food security further compromised by COVID-19. This project will:

  1. Assess emergency response preparedness in food security practice in the City of Toronto before, during and after the pandemic outbreak,
  2. Examine how COVID-19 risks are perceived across food security programs/organizations in Toronto,
  3. Investigate the different types of adaptive risk management responses being adopted across food security programs in Toronto during the pandemic and recovery planning processes,
  4. Mobilize knowledge on related implications for the resiliency and equity of Toronto’s food security programming system to inform and strengthen future food security and emergency response practice

This study will address the limited knowledge-base on how power and politics shape risk management decisions in ways that prioritize certain populations and/or risks over others.


Sara Edge, Jenelle Regnier-Davies, Mustafa Koc, Joseph Nasr, Josephine Grey


Project dates

June 2020 - June 2021