News & Events

The Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems Welcomes Summer Research Assistants

May 2018

On Tuesday, May 8th, the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems held an all-day orientation for incoming summer research assistants. The program included sessions on research ethics, worker health and safety, participatory action research, and research communications. The gathering brought together expert and novice FLEdGE researchers working in the Northwest Territories and Southern Ontario FLEdGE Research Nodes to share experiences, discuss the challenges and benefits of participatory action research, and build a community of practice.

Dr. Alison Blay-Palmer welcomes student researchers to the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems

Dr. Alison Blay-Palmer, director of the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (LCSFS) and Principal Investigator for FLEdGE, opened the day by welcoming the early career researchers to the LCSFS and walking them through the many national and international projects taking place throughout the FLEdGE network. Dr. Blay-Palmer then engaged the research assistants in a lively discussion about conducting food systems research with community partners. In their community-driven research efforts, Dr. Blay-Palmer sees student researchers as ambassadors for Laurier, the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, and the FLEdGE network. “Student research assistants with the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems work directly with communities and conduct innovative sustainable food systems research,” she explained. “They make meaningful and impactful contributions to the changing landscape of sustainable food systems research. Here at the CSFS we’re doing everything we can to ensure that they have the support they need to do their amazing work.”

Dr. Spring and Dr. Schumilas sitting at table in conversation.
Dr. Andrew Spring and Dr. Theresa Schumilas talked to incoming research assistants about their approach to participatory action research.

Following a field research safety briefing by Andrew Good, Health and Safety Specialist with Laurier’s Safety, Health, Environment, and Risk Management department, the program turned to the practical considerations of doing participatory action research. Drawing on their personal field research experiences, FLEdGE research node leads Dr. Theresa Schumilas and Dr. Andrew Spring offered their insights into the benefits and challenges of working directly with communities. Dr. Schumilas stressed the importance of good planning for participatory action research but added that, in order to truly work with communities, “you have to give it the plan up and become an equal participant in the research.” Dr. Spring talked about the role of patience, flexibility, and adaptability in participatory action research and acknowledged that research assistants are asked to “put a lot of trust” in the research process. “That’s why coming together to talk about our research experiences is so important,” Dr. Spring continued. “There are amazing success stories throughout the FLEdGE network, so if things do get complicated, there are a number of people that can provide support.”

The day wrapped up with an informal discussion about research communications and social media for early career researchers led by Amanda Di Battista, the project co-ordinator at the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems.

We wish all of the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems’ research assistants and graduate students an excellent summer of sustainable food systems research.


Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems research assistants and staff taking a break in the sun. Top image (from left): Maggie Mills, Emily Edwards, Amanda Watkins, Neomi Jayaratne, and Molly Fremes. Bottom image (from left): Kaitlin Kok, Jennifer Marshman, Michelle Malandra, Laine Young, Elena Christy, and Molly Stollmeyer.

For more information about the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems please contact Amanda Di Battista at




The Robin Hoods of Food Waste

Gleaning, the practice of harvesting food that would otherwise go to waste on public and private property, has made an appearance in the New Yorker Magazine this month. The short article discusses the finer points of gleaning, including potential legal ramifications. The article also includes a list of common gleanings from Jennifer Jans, “outreach raccoon” for Hidden Harvest in Ottawa. A great read as we head into harvesting season…


Addressing Complex Societal Problems: Enabling Multiple Dimensions of Proximity to Sustain Partnerships for Collective Impact in Quebec

New paper on partnerships and collective impact from the Quebec FLEdGE Research Node researchers Nii Addy and Laurette Dubé. Full-Text article available now!

Sustainable solutions for complex societal problems, like poverty, require informing stakeholders about progress and changes needed as they collaborate. Yet, inter-organizational collaboration researchers highlight monumental challenges in measuring seemingly intangible factors during collective impact processes. We grapple with the question: How can decision-makers coherently conceptualize and measure seemingly intangible factors to sustain partnerships for the emergence of collective impact?

Continue reading “Addressing Complex Societal Problems: Enabling Multiple Dimensions of Proximity to Sustain Partnerships for Collective Impact in Quebec”

FLEdGE gets poetic: Faris Ahmed’s Fractured Food Systems Blues

April 6, 2017

Last year the team behind FLEdGE released the book Nourishing Communities: From Fractured Food Systems to Transformative Pathways (Springer), which documents more than a decade of collaborative work by our network of scholars, community-based partners, and practitioners interested in constructing more sustainable and just food systems.

In November, Carleton University’s Faculty of Public Affairs hosted a discussion of the book at Irene’s Pub in Ottawa. Moe Garahan (Just Food Ottawa), Jay Garlough (Hidden Harvest Ottawa), and Faris Ahmed (USC Canada) commented on the book and discussed their own work in transforming food systems. One of the highlights of this engaging evening was Faris’ response to the book in the form of spoken word. It was so good, we went back to record it!

Below you will find Faris’ performance along with a brief interview about his work at USC. You can also find the entire audio on YouTube. Continue reading “FLEdGE gets poetic: Faris Ahmed’s Fractured Food Systems Blues”

How to Improve Northern Ontario Food Systems: The 4 Next Steps

By Alison Earls, BA., MEDI.

Over the summer I was thrilled to work as a research assistant for Food Locally Embedded Globally Engaged (FLEdGE). I grew up in a small rural farming community food and food systems were a central part of my life from a young age, so getting the chance to study these systems, specifically infrastructure for Northern Ontario food systems, was a dream come true.

Although I have experience with local food and food systems research, I was a bit out of my comfort zone with the geography of the project, which took place in Northern Ontario. I am very familiar with the opportunities and obstacles that are available for food and farms in Southern Ontario but, at the beginning of the project, food and farming in Northern Ontario was new to me. Before starting the project, I would have said that the food systems in Northern and Southern Ontario have similar challenges and opportunities, however this is not the case. Continue reading “How to Improve Northern Ontario Food Systems: The 4 Next Steps”

Tweeters & Eaters, Hackers & Snackers: Digitally-Enabled Inspiration for the Food Movement

Introducing a new blog series by Dr. Theresa Schumilas

The digital revolution is unleashing a lot of creativity and with that, new opportunities. How is this mix of talent, enthusiasm and ingenuity being used to transform unsustainable food systems?

For the past 2 years, I’ve been exploring the ways in which sustainable food movements in Canada are engaging with new digital spaces. I’ve been studying  how emerging ‘platform economies’ and social media are opening up new possibilities for linking together and scaling up grassroots food innovation, and giving rise to  new forms of on-line activism to transform unsustainable food systems.

I feel like my work has been ‘quiet’. I have:

  • lurked in dozens of on-line spaces,
  • smirked at the disruptive clever bits,
  • been irked by the use of warm fuzzy words like clouds, like, friend, tweet, and sharing, and
  • jerked into action where the movements for digital sovereignty and food sovereignty meet.

But in all the fun, I have perhaps shirked my responsibility to share what I’ve found.

So for all you tweeters & eaters, and hackers & snackers, this is the beginning of a series of blogs, for your fermentation, about new possibilities for digitally-enabled food system change.

Continue reading “Tweeters & Eaters, Hackers & Snackers: Digitally-Enabled Inspiration for the Food Movement”