Michael Widener

Canada Research Chair in Transportation and Health

Tier 2 - 2017-10-01
University of Toronto
Canadian Institutes of Health Research


Research involves

Identifying how, where and when people in urban centres gain or lose access to healthy food.

Research relevance

This research will improve our understanding of how time pressures affect food shopping behaviours and food security.

The Link Between Time and Food Insecurity

Food insecurity—the lack of reliable access to healthy, affordable food—is a serious problem in Canada. Many factors contribute to food insecurity, including geography, employment and costs of living. But another important factor is the lack of time to buy or make healthy food, a consideration that, until now, has been relatively understudied.

Dr. Michael Widener, Canada Research Chair in Transportation and Health, is leading innovative research on the links between transportation, planning and well­being. His focus is the role of location, time, transportation systems and availability of healthy foods in helping, or hindering, our food choices.

In particular, Widener and his research team are trying to determine whether people under time pressures (such as single parents and those with long commutes) are more affected by food insecurity. Through large-scale questionnaires and a smartphone-enabled GPS activity survey, they are collecting key time-use data from hundreds of people living in major Canadian cities.

Widener’s results will reveal how factors like the time we spend on activities, the neighbourhoods we live in, our transportation choices, our cultural backgrounds, and our financial situations influence our access to different food retailers and our food shopping behaviour.

Widener’s findings will provide fresh insight into the programs, planning and policies needed to ensure everyone has access to good food—essential information for creating healthy and liveable cities in Canada and around the world.