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Food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic who use drugs in Vancouver, Canada

  • Singh Kelsall, Tyson
  • DeBeck, Kora
  • Grant, Cameron
  • Gorbach, Pamina
  • Milloy, M-J
  • Hayashi, Kanna
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2023
eScholarship - University of California
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ObjectiveTo examine prevalence and factors associated with food insecurity among people who use drugs (PWUD) during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the overdose crisis.DesignThis cross-sectional study employs multivariable logistic regression to identify factors associated with self-reported food insecurity.ParticipantsPWUD who are part of three community-recruited cohorts.SettingInterviews conducted in Vancouver, Canada, via phone between July and November 2020 in adherence to COVID-19 safety procedures.ResultsAmong 765 participants, including 433 (56·6 %) men, eligible for this study, 146 (19·1 %; 95 % CI: 16·3 %, 21·9 %) reported food insecurity in the past month. Of the participants reporting food insecurity, 114 (78·1 %) reported that their hunger levels had increased since the beginning of the pandemic. In multivariable analyses, factors independently and positively associated with food insecurity included: difficulty accessing health or social services (adjusted OR (AOR) = 2·59; 95 % CI: 1·60, 4·17); having mobility difficulties (AOR = 1·59; 95 % CI: 1·02, 2·45) and engaging in street-based income generation (e.g. panhandling and informal recycling) (AOR = 2·31; 95 % CI: 1·45, 3·65).ConclusionApproximately one in five PWUD reported food insecurity during this time. PWUD with mobility issues, who experienced difficulty accessing services and/or those engaged in precarious street-based income generation were more likely to report food insecurity. Food security is paramount to the success of interventions to prevent COVID-19 and drug toxicity deaths. These findings suggest a need for a more unified state response to food insecurity that prioritises and incorporates accessibility and autonomy of the communities they serve.

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