"It's not easy to ask for food" - Stigmatizing attitudes and the community food centre: a New Brunswick case study

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University of New Brunswick


Food insecurity affects an estimated four million Canadians annually. The current responses to food insecurity are largely charity based and are comprised primarily of food banks, community kitchens, food pantries, and community food centres. Food insecurity is a component of poverty, and considerable stigma can arise from the label “poor”, depending on the attributions given for an individual’s poverty. Some traditional food charities have transitioned into community food centres. The Community Food Centre (CFC) model encompasses expanded programs and services, including adjustments aimed at stigma alleviation. The current research is a case-study that aims to better understand the role that the CFC model plays in the alleviation of poverty stigma. Mixed-methodology was used, with qualitative methods informing the majority of the research. Surveys were completed by 144 members of the Greener Village Community Food Centre client base in Fredericton, NB. From the initial surveys, 15 clients, 7 volunteers, and 5 staff members were interviewed. Interviews were used to assess the relationship between the CFC model and poverty stigma, and distinct themes emerged including the value of volunteer training, the possible role of the client-volunteer, and the physical environment. Results suggest that the CFC model is more comfortable for clients than the traditional model, but that without proper volunteer training in place it could become a stigmatizing environment for those who access its services.