Food as harm reduction: barriers, strategies, and opportunities at the intersection of nutrition and drug-related harm

Christiana Miewald, Eugene McCann, Alison McIntosh, Cristina Temenos

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Abstract

Research suggests that food insecurity exacerbates the harms experienced by people who use drugs (PWUD). Therefore, improving the food security status can help PWUD reduce drug-related harms. This paper identifies a knowledge gap in public health and harm reduction literatures regarding the relationship between food and harm reduction. We argue that there needs to be a more comprehensive and systematic model of food provision in harm reduction services. Our argument is based on a qualitative case study of 42 people who currently use, or have used drugs in Vancouver, Canada and of staff of 27 programs that provide harm reduction services in the city. The research demonstrates how PWUD experience the effects of drug use on their food consumption, how they access food, and how they practice self-care. It also shows how harm reduction services, while they often provide food, are unable to systematically address the dietary-related harms associated with drug use. This presents an opportunity and a challenge for these organizations and for harm reduction as a public health approach. We call for more research to be done on food as harm reduction and for stable publically funded food provision in harm reduction-oriented services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586-595
Number of pages10
JournalCritical Public Health
Volume28
Issue number5
Early online date8 Sept 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Food security
  • Vancouver, BC
  • foodscape
  • harm reduction
  • public health

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