Objective: In Canada, recent immigrant households experience more food insecurity than the general population, but limited information is available about the personal, cultural, and social factors that contribute to this vulnerability. This study focused on recent Latin American (LA) immigrants to explore their perceived barriers in acquiring safe, nutritious, and culturally-appropriate food.
Design: A cross-sectional mixed-method design was applied to collect information from a convenience sample of 70 adult Spanish/Portuguese speakers who had arrived in Toronto within the last five years. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with primary household caregivers to obtain responses about barriers to acquiring food for their households; data were analyzed using a thematic analysis technique.
Results: Four main categories of barriers were identified: limited financial resources; language difficulty; cultural food preferences; and poor knowledge of available community-based food resources and services. Inadequate income was the main impediment in accessing adequate food, and was related to affordability of food items, accessibility of food outlets and transportation cost, and limited time for grocery shopping due to work conditions. Language barriers affected participants' ability to obtain well-paid employment and their awareness about and access to available community-based food resources. Cultural barriers were related to food preferences and limited access to culturally-appropriate foods and resources.
Conclusion: The main barrier to food security among our sample of LA newcomers to Toronto is limited financial resources, highlighting the need for policies and strategies that could improve their financial power to purchase sufficient, nutritious, and culturally-acceptable food. Linguistic barriers and limited information among newcomers suggest the need to provide linguistically- and culturally-appropriate information related to community-based food programs and resources, as well as accessible subsidized English language programs, in the community and at workplaces. Participatory community-based food programs can augment, in a socially acceptable manner, food resources and reduce the social stigma attached to food charity. Finally, it is crucial to monitor and evaluate existing social and community-based services for their accessibility, cultural appropriateness and diversity, and effectiveness.