The COVID‑19 pandemic and food insecurity in African Caribbean Black Identifying households in the Waterloo Region

Oba, Olufunke | $24,999

Ontario Ryerson University 2021 SSHRC

Household food insecurity is a public health concern that worsened during COVID‑19 and brought distinct challenges to the food supply chain. It is projected that household food insecurity will double this year as COVID-related supports come to an end. The population most likely to be affected are those that were nd struggling even before the pandemic. These populations include racialized, migrant and female-headed households with children. For Black families, it is exacerbated by the anti-Black racism crisis which predates COVID-19. In the Waterloo region, over 33,000 people grapple with food insecurity, many of whom reside in low-income/racialized neighbourhoods. These socially disadvantaged populations face job loss, loss of income, school closure, as well as physical and social distancing measures which increase barriers to affordable accessible healthy and culturally appropriate foods. COVID‑19 has magnified structural inequities in Canadian food systems, laying bare the inadequacies of the country’s social protection systems. African and Caribbean Black Identified (ACBI) families with children below the age of 18 years have a disproportionate risk of adverse outcomes in physical, mental health, cognitive, and social health of current and future generations. Addressing food insecurity in marginalized households during and post COVID‑19 is imperative and can be achieved through studies that honour and amplify the voices that are systematically silenced. The proposed research addresses this gap by exploring the food (in)security experiences of ACBI households in the Waterloo region during COVID-19, the associated health effects, and the community-based cultural practices that improve food security. We partner with the Kingdom Community International (KCI), a Black-led church whose vision is to be a community hub promoting wholeness and wellness, particularly for African and Caribbean populations. KCI has demonstrated this vision by operating a food bank, and bread distribution initiative, which had to shut down during the pandemic. KCI, therefore, identified the need for data on how the pandemic has affected food security among ACBI households to enable it to serve this community through proactive future emergency preparedness planning. No studies have investigated COVID‑19 related losses (school lunches, food banks, unemployment, and income) or the physical, mental, and economic toll on ACBI families in the Waterloo region. We propose to address this gap by arming KCI with insights for training, program design and meaningful service delivery. Adopting Afrocentric theory to centre African knowledge, cultural and social capital. An eco-social lens will illuminate the inter connected pathways through which ACBI populations encounter inequities and social injustice. Our qualitative design will facilitate access to unknown phenomena, utilizing in-depth interviews and Afrocentric Sharing Circles which are framed by Afro-indigeneity to access nuanced stories. We will conduct one-on-one in-depth interviews with 25 youth and adult participants and 3 Afrocentric sharing circles to clarify experiences of food security and the cultural practices that ameliorate food insecurity. Interviews and sharing circles will be audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts will be imported into NVIVO, iterative data analysis and thematic coding will be informed by the literature.This is the first study of its kind in Waterloo Region. The findings have potential to inform system-level supports for community-driven efforts to address food insecurity, in mid-sized urban communities. It will enable KCI to design proactive community based services to help ACBI families navigate future emergencies and the endemic anti-Black racism.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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