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Laurier-led international meeting will discuss sustainable food systems around the world #FLEdGE2017

Waterloo – A Laurier-based food research partnership is holding an international meeting in Waterloo that will feature some of Canada and the world’s leading thinkers on sustainable food systems.

The Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged (FLEdGE) Partnership is a research- and knowledge-sharing network committed to fostering food systems that are socially just, ecologically regenerative, economically localized and that engage citizens. The 2017 FLEdGE Meeting will be held Sept. 7-9 at the Balsillie School of International Affairs.

Through food, citizens, practitioners, policy makers and academics can understand the importance of food systems that are green, fair, local and engaging,” said Alison Blay-Palmer, Centre for International Governance Innovation chair in sustainable food systems. Local, sustainable community food initiatives reflect this growing public awareness that food can act as a vehicle for change. For example, school snack programs that purchase fruit and vegetables directly from local producers who use low-impact farming methods make the connections amongst human, community, economic and ecological well-being more explicit.

The conference will focus on how to create a food system that is truly sustainable, said Blay-Palmer, who is director of Laurier’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems. Discussions will draw on experiences in locales ranging from South Africa to Southern Ontario to the Northwest Territories and will feature panel discussions on topics including food policy, hard and soft infrastructure, food growing, and Indigenous food systems.

Speakers include:

  • Blay-Palmer and Charles Levkoe, Canada research chair in sustainable food systems at Lakehead University, who will speak on Food Counts: A Pan-Canadian Sustainable Food Systems Report Card, which brings together existing measures of social, environmental, and economic well-being to help researchers, policy makers, and practitioners examine food systems at the national level.
  • Gisèle Yasmeen, senior fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Institute of Asian Research, who will speak on policy lessons from Canada and the Asia-Pacific with respect to economically and environmentally sustainable livelihoods in the food system.
  • Molly Anderson, William R. Kenan Jr. professor of Food Studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, who will speak on recent movement both toward and away from “right to food” policies in the U.S.

Members of the media are invited to attend any and all sessions on Sept. 7 and 8. Download a full program or see more information at



Mapping the Food Policy Landscape is Canada is the result of a research collaboration between Food Secure Canada and Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged (FLEdGE), led out of Wilfrid Laurier Universities’ Centre for Sustainable Food Systems.

The intention of this policy scan, presented in a series of six themed papers, maps and summary tables is to inform and contribute to a conversation on building a national food policy in Canada that addresses the inter-related issues of hunger, health, and sustainability.  Current policies at the municipal, provincial/territorial and federal level are explored under each theme. This ‘food policy landscape’ provides examples to draw from- like farm to cafeteria pilot projects or hunter support programs – that effectively reconcile the three goals. By identifying good practices, we are able, in some cases, to delineate some of the gaps and obstacles to scale up and scale out policy efforts.

From these policy scans and discussions it is clear that the existing agri-food policy landscape in Canada is highly complex, uneven and dynamic.  A variety of different initiatives, policy and programs are being piloted at various levels of government, while troubling gaps remain in certain policy areas and regions. The challenge is to ascertain how these policies might be better connected together, networked and joined-up.  A national food policy provides one such opportunity. While it will not bring whole-scale change overnight, it has the potential to be a first step in a longer process of building a more integrated food policy landscape in Canada, one that moves our food system towards to goals of equity, health and sustainability.


The following is an excerpt from Charles Z. Levkoe and Michael Ekers’ “Framing Farm Internships” an introduction to Ecological Farm Internships: Models, Experiences and Justice. To read the full report, visit

Over the past decade, growing numbers of interns have been working on small-scale ecological farms across North America and Europe. Farmers are looking to young people seeking hands-on farm experiences as a way to train the next generation of ecological producers and to meet the labour demands of their operations. Interns typically exchange their labour for room and board, a stipend and importantly, training in ecological production methods. While many farms pay workers a minimum wage, or more, and provide benefits, interns as a relatively new type of non-waged worker have become a source of outside labour on many farms. At the core of the farm internship issue are a number of pressing questions about the financial challenges of ecological farming, the training of new farmers and the rise of precarious work. It should be stressed that labour issues exist across the agricultural sector and the reliance of some producers on migrant workers is emblematic of this issues. Nevertheless, as a relatively new and potentially defining trend within the ecological farming sector, the issues discussed in this report bear considerable significance for farm operators, interns and the broader food movement. This report draws on the knowledge, experience and voices of farmers, past interns, non-profit organizations and lawyers to assess the implications and trajectories of the non-monetary exchanges of labour and education, among other things, taking place on ecological farms. This report is therefore largely driven by the perspectives and experiences of those with practical knowledge of the farm internship issue. The report is based on a workshop held on October 13, 2016, in Toronto that brought together a range of speakers that have contributed to this report and a dynamic audience comprised of farm owners, workers, past interns, students and academics. The goal was to assess the opportunities, limitations and possible trajectories of the farm intern phenomenon while examining what just food labour might mean for interns, farm workers, farmers and for those advocating for socially just and ecologically sustainable food systems. In this introduction, we offer some brief context and framing of the issues explored in the workshop and compiled in this report. Continue reading “FRAMING FARM INTERNSHIPS”

The promise of a national food policy for Canada

What is a national food policy?

Food policy is a collection of decisions that influence food, from production and harvesting to processing, distribution, retail, consumption and waste management. Policies shape the broader context in which these activities take place, creating an enabling or constraining environment to apply different objectives. This includes various laws, regulations, rules and guidelines that affect different parts of the food chain.

A national food policy would offer the federal government an opportunity to review the existing policies and programs scattered throughout a variety of offices and ministries and consider ways to coordinate, integrate and fill gaps in the existing landscape. Currently, many of these different policies work in isolation and in contradiction to each other, contributing to dysfunction in the food system.

The stated intention of a national food policy is to bring together a whole-of-government approach, one that will set long-term food-related goals for society, the economy and the environment, while also prioritizing initiatives to address immediate challenges.

Continue reading “The promise of a national food policy for Canada”

Working Together to Feed Communities

In 2016, Open Roads Public School in Dryden was awarded a grant through Farm to Cafeteria Canada to deliver a 3-year salad bar program to their students. This program requires that all students in the school have access to the salad bar service once a week for 20 weeks out of the school year, and that they be given the opportunity to choose from a variety fresh fruits and vegetables. A mandate of the program is also to source locally produced goods when available.

This is where Cloverbelt comes in! We’ve been working closely with the school to help them source local produce as it’s available from our farmers. The tricky part about determining how to supply fresh local produce to a program like this, is that a lot of the veggies in this area are in season later into the summer while the students are out of school. Luckily, CLFC came up with a solution!

Working Together to Feed Communities2

Del Schmucker, Wickens Lake Sunshine In late 2016, CLFC’s Ag. Coordinator assisted Del Schmucker of Wickens Lake Sunshine in applying for and receiving a grant through the Greenbelt Fund. Del has a hydroponics greenhouse (growing plants in water instead of dirt) in Dryden and produces different varieties of lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. This grant allowed Del to fund an incredible project to increase his production by doubling the current size of his greenhouse and to install a wood boiler system to heat the greenhouse during the colder spring and fall months. A clear marker of success of the project was that Del had lettuce ready as early as mid-April this year which is at least 4-6 weeks earlier than normal! Thanks to this increased production and extended growing season, Del can provide the students with fresh veggies over the course of the school year. Students were also recently able to visit Del’s greenhouse to learn about hydroponics and even help harvest their own lettuce for the next day’s salad bar! So far, the students have been LOVING the program! It’s been a chance to try new things and support a variety of local producers. Students have already enjoyed carrots from Belluz Farms in Thunder Bay, lettuce and cherry tomatoes from Wickens Lake Sunshine, and fresh asparagus from Wall’s Pork Shop in Oxdrift. We heard the students couldn’t get enough of the asparagus and even have new favourites like radishes! This successful program is just another example of how CLFC and our producers are working with institutions and organizations to help get local food into the community. Do you have a similar story to share or want to know more about how you can get involved in local food initiatives? Contact us at

Nourishing Communities: The Book!

The Nourishing Communities Research Group is excited to announce the release of an edited collection that reflects on nearly a decade of Nourishing Communities research network’s collaborations.

Nourishing Communities: From Fractured Food Systems to Transformative Pathways 
Edited by: Knezevic, I., Blay-Palmer, A., Levkoe, C.Z., Nelson, E., Mount, P. (Springer)

From the publisher:

This edited volume builds on existing alternative food initiatives and food movements research to explore how a systems approach can bring about health and well-being through enhanced collaboration. Chapters describe the myriad ways community-driven actors work to foster food systems that are socially just, embed food in local economies, regenerate the environment and actively engage citizens. Drawing on case studies, interviews and Participatory Action Research projects, the editors share the stories behind community-driven efforts to develop sustainable food systems, and present a critical assessment of both the tensions and the achievements of these initiatives.

The volume is unique in its focus on approaches and methodologies that both support and recognize the value of community-based practices. Throughout the book the editors identify success stories, challenges and opportunities that link practitioner experience to critical debates in food studies, practice and policy. By making current practices visible to scholars, the volume speaks to people engaged in the co-creation of knowledge, and documents a crucial point in the evolution of a rapidly expanding and dynamic sustainable food systems movement.

Entrenched food insecurity, climate change induced crop failures, rural-urban migration, escalating rates of malnutrition related diseases, and aging farm populations are increasingly common obstacles for communities around the world. Merging private, public and civil society spheres, the book gives voice to actors from across the sustainable food system movement including small businesses, not-for-profits, eaters, farmers and government. Insights into the potential for market restructuring, knowledge sharing, planning and bridging civic-political divides come from across Canada, the United States and Mexico, making this a key resource for policy-makers, students, citizens, and practitioners.

For more information, please contact