Media-Ting the “Need of Formula for My Baby”: Online Food Seeking, Sharing, and Selling As a Response to Infant Food Insecurity in Canada

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Lesley FRANK, Acadia University, Canada
This paper reports on research conducted in Canada on the use of social media websites for the distribution and acquisition of infant food outside of commercial and regulated foodscapes. Trends concerning informal infant food distribution (selling, trading, and seeking) are documented and described based on qualitative and quantitative content analysis of ads collected from the most popular Canadian online classified advertising service (Kijiji), and a range of localized and context specific facebook groups. This paper reveals an emerging food acquisition strategy among mothers who utilize online platforms to acquire food to either ‘feed the baby’, or make small amounts of income from selling personally unusable infant food products. This research demonstrates that addressing infant food security in this way has both positive and negative effects. On one hand, a mother-to-mother sharing economy motivated by the ethos of trading and recycling serves as an alternative acquisition practice. On the other hand, this research offers fodder for a critique of ‘do-it-yourself’ responses to infant food insecurity that has the potential to expose mothers to poor bashing and claims of neglect as they make public their struggles to afford food. Ultimately this paper argues that while online platforms offer an alternative source for food acquisition, the very existence of the phenomena is an outcome of neoliberal social welfare reform typified by weak state support for the work of feeding the baby (inadequate maternity provisions, inadequate food allowances for welfare recipients, the absence of children’s food programs) and the inability of food charity organizations to meet the needs of food insecure families.