Poverty Reduction

In 2001, CUP began examining conditions of poverty in the Edmonton area, and its effect on families and children. Those early discussions led to Families First Edmonton (FFE), a major study reflecting the experiences of 1,200 families with children, all of them living at or below the poverty line. By the time it was completed in 2012, FFE had built a legacy of trusted relationships with partners, stakeholders, researchers and funders. It had generated a wealth of data at the individual, family, community, and system levels, while at the same time improving scientific literacy and interest among those who make decisions about programs and policy.

Since that time and given our long-term commitment to understanding poverty, CUP has been involved in the Mayor's Task Force for the Elimination of Poverty in Edmonton, the United Way of Alberta Capital Region's Pathways Out of Poverty, and EndPovertyEdmonton (EPE). Through our partnership with EPE, we created a research position that exists to bridge and collectively support the two partner entities. We also continue to conduct research and co-create projects that are of mutual benefit to both EPE and CUP, such as exploring ways to create an inclusive economy that supports livable incomes for all Edmontonians.

Our multifaceted support brings together the efforts of researchers, students, and the wider community and its leaders. By providing evidence-based insights into family poverty, CUP is helping to shape future policies and programs. We hope our contributions will help produce stronger families, healthier communities, and more effective systems and services.

Active Projects


From 2005-2012, CUP’s Families First Edmonton project collected baseline knowledge about low-income families and informed the development of EndPovertyEdmonton (EPE). CUP has been involved with EPE ever since. Currently, CUP’s poverty research team is providing research and evaluation support for one of EPE’s key game changers for poverty reduction: livable incomes. The CUP-EPE team’s work on livable incomes is aimed at ensuring all Edmontonians have the financial means to achieve economic security, live in dignity, and participate meaningfully in their communities.

Read more about EndPovertyEdmonton here.

EndPovertyEdmonton documents produced by CUP:

Race-based data collection (primer, Oct. 2021)

Is working a pathway out of poverty? (policy brief, May 2021)

All in for Youth

CUP is supporting the evaluation of the AIFY initiative. The All in For Youth (AIFY) initiative is focused on supporting the overall wellbeing of children, youth, and families in Edmonton school communities. The focus of the initiative is to help children and youth achieve success in their schooling and help families thrive. Using a school-based, collaborative model of wraparound services and programs, 5 inner city Edmonton schools have adopted and integrated the AIFY model of support into their school communities. These collaborative and wraparound supports include mentoring, mental health support, in-home family support, nutrition support, student success coaching, and out of school care. In the fall of 2016, the AIFY initiative first implemented its collaborative model of support in Delton Elementary, John A. McDougall Elementary, St. Alphonsus Elementary and Junior High, Spruce Avenue Junior High, and Eastglen High School. To date, AIFY is still a part of these 5 school communities and CUP continues to support the evaluation of the AIFY initiative as the AIFY partners continue to evaluate their work to inform practice and sustainability.

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Completed Projects

Strategies for Addressing Food Insecurity

Did you know some children in the City of Edmonton do not eat for a whole day because their families do not have enough money to buy food? This is known as food insecurity. In 2016, we surveyed migrant women served by the Multicultural Health Brokers Cooperative. Of the 213 women surveyed, 94% (n=199) were food insecure (did not have enough food due to lack of money) and 53% (n=112) were severely food insecure (had disrupted eating and reduced food intake). In the previous year, 85% (n=182) of families did not have enough money to eat balanced meals (living off food bank staples such as pasta and sauce), and 39% (n= 79) cut meal sizes or skipped meals (mothers usually go without so their family can eat). And, thirty-one percent (31%) reported that their children were "not eating for a whole day because there wasn't enough money for food".

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Evidence for a Better System

Using rich case worker notes that were collected while caseworkers worked with Families First Edmonton (FFE) families, CUP researchers developed a suite of family stories that help illustrate the range of experiences of low-income families. These stories helped ground the work of the Mayor's Task Force to eliminate Poverty. These stories are woven throughout the strategic plan that is being presented to Edmonton City Council as End Poverty Edmonton. The stories of real people illuminate how the recommendations have the potential to improve the quality of life and financial well-being of low-income families living in Edmonton.

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Intimate Partner Violence

Domestic violence continues to be a troubling social problem that disproportionately impacts women and their children across space, race, age, culture and economic class. It is complicated and a multi-faceted issue. In order to begin to unpack and address these complicated social processes to improve the quality of life for low-income women and children experiencing domestic violence in Edmonton, information around the nuances of the experiences of these families is crucial, but also limited. This project aims to address the gap in knowledge by drawing upon a rich source of data. Findings from this project will be available to better enable evidence-based policy and practice decisions around the issue of domestic violence for low-income families in Edmonton.

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Recruiting Vulnerable Populations

Engaging and recruiting low-income families and individuals is a fundamental challenge among community program planners, policy makers, and researchers. The project provides a better understanding on the part of the 'recruiter' about the countermeasures needed to recruit low-income families.

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Putting Research to Work: Understanding and improving knowledge translation in population health

Promoting positive health outcomes for low-income families is a critical challenge for communities and governments across the country. The project will assist partner organizations in working through the knowledge application process, from identifying their problem, to applying the knowledge within and across their sectors.

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Conducting CBR with Vulnerable Populations
The purpose of this research is to develop a project that documents the "how" of the CBR process when working with vulnerable populations. This project will focus on the needs of vulnerable populations and the considerations and best practices that should be undertaken to create collaborative, respectful, and positive environments in which to conduct research. Considerations across all stages of the research process will be examined (planning, recruitment, data collection and analysis, results, knowledge mobilization, after care). Read More
Families First Edmonton (FFE)

Optimizing healthy child development is an enduring and critically important goal of Canadian society. Rapid changes in health care cultural diversity, the economy, education, public administration, and health and social policy are critical influences on the Canadian family, the main environment for children. A guiding assumption in this research project is that what happens in families, in communities and at the systems' level cannot be detached from healthy childhood development. The challenge is to join research, practice, and policy efforts in the development of new knowledge about healthy child and family outcomes, and to use the knowledge to improve practices and policies. Families First Edmonton (FFE) is focused on child developmental trajectories within the context of the mediating and moderating processes operating in low income families. FEE was designed to (a) advance fundamental knowledge about interventions likely to improve health outcomes for children, parents, and families with low incomes; (b) optimize cost-effectiveness for public systems; (c) build on previous research and on local community-based initiatives; (d) provide evidence for health and social policy decision-making; and (e) promote knowledge transfer.

Findings from this project will provide management and policymakers with detailed descriptions of the skills, processes, technology, and structures necessary for collaboration, especially around delivery of service to low-income families.

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Photovoice - Documenting the Experiences of Low-Income Families

Families First Edmonton (FFE) researchers worked with ten women from families participating in the comprehensive group on a photovoice project. Photovoice is a qualitative, community-based research method in which the experiences of participants are explored through words and photographs produced by them in regard to some aspect of their experience. In this particular instance, participants were asked to articulate, through words and photographs the challenges they have faced as low-income families. A short training film for front-line staff and students in the health and social services fields was produced. This gave peoples voice to their struggles with childcare, housing, and accessing assistance. Participants also described the systemic discrimination they face and the perceptions many people have about families with low incomes.

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BureaucraZy - Navigating Health and Social Services in Alberta

BureaucraZy is a film documentary profiling four single mothers with low income who volunteered to share their experiences in accessing health and social services in Alberta. It's about parents and children in our community who face real structural and systemic obstacles.

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