Date of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Tina Moffat


Tracy Prowse



Committee Member

Sarah Wakefield


Multilaterally, Canada’s food system is not succeeding – this is related to jurisdictional disconnect in policy objectives and outcomes between aspects of the system. This “good food gap” requires integrated, system-focused solutions.Considering an ecosystems approach to biocultural anthropology and the community food security perspective, this thesis studied food banks’ use of fresh, local produce in Hamilton, Ontario – a city particularly affected by poverty and food insecurity. Mixed methods allowed a more holistic investigation: a nutritional assessment of 108 model grocery parcels from three Hamilton food banks over a local growing season was complemented by semi-structured interviews with 13 key stakeholders including food bank staff, clients and produce suppliers and others involved in community food work in Hamilton.

Average parcel contents met or exceeded some nutritional targets, but other results were concerning: parcels contained high sodium levels, few servings of milk and alternatives and vegetable and fruit servings were seasonally-limited with fresh, local produce making a significant contribution during the harvest months. Also, parcels varied individually but those for smaller households were significantly more adequate than those for larger households. Non-nutritive benefits to food banks’ use of fresh, local produce were identified and seen to extend beyond the emergency food sector (EFS) though poor produce quality was considered a drawback. Infrastructure, knowledge and networks were the main categories of facilitating or limiting factors. These findings are situated within stakeholders’ discussions of the relationships between emergency food, food security, nutrition, culture and their future aspirations. The results support the position that overcoming the good food gap in Hamilton can be best accomplished by both improving the food bank system – such as through increasing the use of fresh, local produce – and moving beyond emergency food towards a just, sustainable, rights-based food system through the community food centre model.

McMaster University Library