News & Events

Sustainable Food System Assessment: Lessons from Global Practice – Now Available and Open Access!

FLEdGE is excited to announce the release of an edited collection that emerged out of our International Working Group on Sustainable Food System Assessment. Sustainable Food System Assessment: Lessons from Global Practice is an open-access edition that shares insights from global, multi-scalar sustainable food systems research and explores the use of indicators and assessment metrics within these projects.

Download the full book for free here:


Alison Blay-Palmer is the UNESCO Chair on Food, Biodiversity, and Sustainability Studies, founding Director for the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, and a Professor in Geography and Environmental Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Damien Conaré is the Secretary General for the UNESCO Chair in World Food Systems, located at Montpellier SupAgro

Ken Meter is the President of the Crossroads Resource Center, located in Minnesota, USA.

Amanda Di Battista is the Project Coordinator for the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems.

Carla Johnston is a Ph.D. Candidate and a Doctoral Fellow at the Balsillie School of International Affairs.

From the publisher’s website:

Sustainable Food System Assessment provides both practical and theoretical insights about the growing interest in and response to measuring food system sustainability. Bringing together research from the Global North and South, this book shares lessons learned, explores intended and actual project outcomes, and highlights points of conceptual and methodological convergence.

Interest in assessing food system sustainability is growing, as evidenced by the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact and the importance food systems initiatives have taken in serving as a lever for attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This book opens by looking at the conceptual considerations of food systems indicators, including the place-based dimensions of food systems indicators and how measurements are implicated in sense-making and visioning processes. Chapters in the second part cover operationalizing metrics, including the development of food systems indicator frameworks, degrees of indicator complexities, and practical constraints to assessment. The final part focuses on the outcomes of assessment projects, including impacts on food policy and communities involved, highlighting the importance of building connections between sustainable food systems initiatives.

The global coverage and multi-scalar perspectives, including both conceptual and practical aspects, make this a key resource for academics and practitioners across planning, geography, urban studies, food studies, and research methods. It will also be of interest to government officials and those working within NGOs.”


Blay-Palmer, A., Conaré, D., Meter, K., Di Battista, A., & Johnston, C. (Eds.). (2019). Sustainable Food System Assessment: Lessons from Global Practice. London: Routledge.

Confronting settler colonialism in food systems: Exploring food movement organizations in Australia and Canada …Reflections on field work abroad

December 2019

By Michaela Bohunicky, RD, MHSc Candidate, Lakehead University

Supervisor: Dr. Charles Levkoe, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems

Settler colonialism is described as a structure, rather than a past event, that aims to systematically eliminate Indigenous peoples and replace them with a settler society (Wolfe, 2006). Canada’s existence today, including its spaces, systems, and stories, is built from and around this structure, whose one key element is land (Lowman & Barker, 2015). In Canada, agriculture was (and remains) the primary method of securing and controlling Indigenous land for settlers. In this way, settler colonialism is intimately connected to food and agriculture. Considering this, we cannot strive towards more sustainable, healthy, and just food systems without addressing settler colonialism. Yet, the issue has received far too little attention in food system literature and practice.

Through my research based at Lakehead University’s Sustainable Food Systems Lab in Thunder Bay, Ontario, I sought to answer the question: how are food movement organizations addressing issues of settler colonialism? While half of my data were collected in Thunder Bay, travelling to Australia was an important opportunity to explore and compare tangible examples of how settler colonialism is being navigated within the context of food movements in two places that are worlds apart. Despite the distance between Canada and Australia, settler colonialism manifests in incredibly similar, yet nuanced ways. And, while recognizing the importance of doing work with and around our own communities, we can’t forget that settler colonialism is embedded throughout all levels of society. Our efforts need to reflect that and carve pathways for collaboration across boundaries and scales.

During the summer of 2019, I travelled to Australia for two and a half months as a visiting scholar. With the support of a Mitacs Globalink Research Award and FLEdGE, I spent my time in Australia being hosted by and volunteering with Dr. Nick Rose, the William Angliss Institute, and Sustain: The Australian Food Network, while also collecting data to inform my master’s thesis. Data collection was comprised of 12 formal research interviews with 16 diverse individuals from mostly settler-based organizations involved in food movement work. These organizations were either actively addressing or were interested and ready to address issues of settler colonialism.

One way that settler colonialism has manifested in Australia is through the recent mainstream, settler uptake of native foods and the lack of attention paid to who gets access to these foods and for whose benefit. People that I interviewed described issues of inequitable access to land and market opportunities to grow and sell native foods, appropriation of native foods in the culinary world, and exploitation of native plants for the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, wellness and nutrition industries. Settler colonialism was described as a total blind spot in food systems work with many barriers to meaningfully confronting it, including time, fear, trust, and unfamiliarity with settler colonialism as a structure.

Particularly meaningful and impactful moments during my time in Australia include my interview with Bruce Pascoe, acclaimed Indigenous writer and author of Dark Emu, at his farm in Gypsy Point, Victoria; my participation on a panel titled Reconciliation and Sovereignty: Land Food & Energy at Melbourne’s William Angliss Institute; and attending a talk by Charles Massey, regenerative farmer and author of Call of the Reed Warbler in Bendigo, Victoria.

My time in Australia reinforced that there is keen interest from food movement organizations to begin the long and messy process of detangling themselves and their work from settler colonialism. A key part of this is learning from the trials and errors of others engaged in this work. There is potential that through learning about best practices, or even about settler colonialism more generally, space opens up for more honest, uncomfortable, unsettling reflections and conversations. My hope is that this work will help do that.

Have questions, comments, or interest in seeing where this research goes? Please email me at


Lowman, E. M., & Barker, A. J. (2015). Settler: Identity and colonialism in 21st century Canada. Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood.

Wolfe, P. (2006). Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native. Journal of Genocide Research, 8(4), 387–409.

Recommended Readings:

Mayes, C. (2018). Unsettling food politics: Agriculture, dispossession and sovereignty in Australia. London, UK: Rowman & Littlefield International.

Pascoe, B. (2018). Dark emu: Aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture. London, UK: Scribe Publications.

FLEdGE Author Meets Readers: Social Movement Engagement in Food Systems Governance in the Spotlight

November 2019

By Peter Andrée and Patricia Ballamingie

FLEdGE-affiliated authors and co-editors, Peter Andrée, Jill K. Clark, Charles Z. Levkoe, and Kristen Lowitt, explore how food movement organizations in Canada and abroad are responding to crises in the food system by getting deeply involved in shaping policy and governance. Civil Society and Social Movements in Food Systems Governance is available free online, and readers have been responding favourably. A recent Author Meets Readers event at Irene’s Pub in Ottawa, hosted by Carleton’s Faculty of Public Affairs, focused on readers’ responses to the book. Another event, taking place November 8 at the Canadian Food Policy and Law Conference in Toronto, will engage lawyers and food policy academics in the discussion too.

At the Author Meets Readers event, which took place on October 17, Professor Peter Andrée set the stage by highlighting the collaborative research that underpins the book and some of its main observations about the growing impact of food movement organizations on how our food systems work.  Civil society is “the realm where ‘I’ becomes ‘we’”, Andrée noted, adding “civil society organizations are formed as we mobilize ourselves, our friends and our neighbours to create the world we would like to see”. This book is chock-full of examples of how civil society organizing is making a difference. Here, Andrée cited several illustrative examples, from the Civil Society Mechanism of the UN Committee on World Food Security, to the creation of an agricultural strategy for Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories, to the town of Correns, France, that has turned to organic agriculture to revitalize the economy while addressing social and environmental challenges.

Andrée then passed the microphone to two readers well-versed in food systems, who had lots to say about the book and its value to them.

Sarah Berger-Richardson is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. Her work focuses on food system regulation. She noted that this book is an “honest” account of what civil society can and cannot do – addressing both challenges and opportunities.  In her view, one of its strengths lies in the introduction of a ‘continuum’ for thinking about the various ways that food movement organizations engage in decision-making, from being one of many stakeholders, to collaborative governance arrangements, to self-governance (see the schema, below, from chapter two in the book). She noted that while “continuums don’t always map perfectly in practice”, there is value in spelling out what people are doing – to better understand the ways people attempt to engage in food systems governance. Berger-Richardson raised questions about what happens as food movement organizations become part of decision-making structures. How might they get past polarizing positions to work with others to find common solutions? And is this always the best goal to have in mind?

Governance Engagement Continuum: The role of food movements

Next up was Moe Garahan, Executive Director of Just Food, a civil society organization working to address sustainable agriculture and food localism through a food systems lens in Ottawa.  Moe offered a practitioner’s point of view on issues raised in the book. On the one hand, she noted: “This is excruciatingly demoralizing work: it takes this long, and this much work, to advance alternatives.” On the other hand, she emphasized the critical work of organizations like hers towards transforming food and farming systems to make them more just and sustainable.

Next to the microphone was Professor Amanda Wilson, an Assistant Professor at Saint Paul University in their School of Innovation.  Wilson and Dr. Charles Levkoe (Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at Lakehead University) co-authored a chapter looking at food movement organizations engaged in the national food policy making process in Canada, turning it into more than just an opportunity to be ‘consulted’ by government, but also to strengthen the national voices of movement actors. Wilson responded to some of what she heard from Berger-Richardson and Garahan, noting the need to not only “remain hopeful, and be visionary, but also acknowledge tensions and challenges.”

The remainder of the evening was filled with interesting questions and discussion with the audience on key book themes. Attendees posed questions about the imminent federal election, and the implications of the (emergent) Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council, the latter of which should give civil society organizations in Canada a new vehicle through which to inform federal food-related policies.

The next chance for readers to engage with this book takes place on Friday, November 8, when Civil Society and Social Movements in Food System Governance will be discussed alongside several other recent titles at a book launch event at the Canadian Food Law and Policy Conference taking place at the University of Toronto. Details of the event can be found here:

The Civil Society & Social Movements in Food System Governance Blog Series showcases the chapters and themes from the open-accesbook. Follow along as we explore the governance of contemporary food systems and their ongoing transformation by social movements.

 Posts in the series:

In memoriam: Marielle Dubbeling (1968-2019)

As a member of the RUAF Global Partnership, it is with great sadness that we share this with you.

On 23rd of October, Marielle Dubbeling passed away peacefully at her home in France, following a long battle with cancer. Her husband, Guido, was at her side.

She is remembered by many people, all over the world, as a unique individual; a spiritual person of integrity and uncompromising values; an influential thinker; a supportive and stimulating colleague and tutor; a steadfast leader; and, above all, a friend.

Marielle’s passing leaves a great void. We have opened an online book of condolences, where we invite colleagues and friends to share their tributes, emotions and memories:

Marielle was a leading expert in urban agriculture and city region food systems, who  had significant and long lasting impacts on urban policies, as well as on research and education in this field of work.

Marielle was co-founder of the RUAF Foundation, of which she was the Director since 2012, and a driving force of the RUAF Global Partnership. She will continue  to inspire the many people that have been involved in studies and projects in which she took part.

Marielle graduated ‘cum laude’ from Wageningen University in 1994 with an M.Sc. Tropical Crop Science and Ecological Agriculture, for which she carried out fieldwork in Cameroon.

Her interest in agro-ecology further developed when she joint the Institute for Low-External Input Agriculture (ILEIA) at ETC in the Netherlands in 1996, where she also participated part-time in the ETC Urban Agriculture programme.

From 1999-2004 she worked as Regional Urban Agriculture and Environmental Management Coordinator for the UN-HABITAT Urban Management Programme in Latin America (UMP-LAC), based in Quito, Ecuador.

In 2004 she joined the staff of RUAF (Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food Security) which was founded in late 1999. She was one of the driving forces in the further development of RUAF and led many of its international programmes, studies and projects. In 2012 she became the Director of the RUAF Foundation. Over the last 18 months she led the transition of the RUAF Foundation into a network named the ‘RUAF Global Partnership on Urban Agriculture and Food Systems’, with its Secretariat hosted at the Netherlands-based Humanist Organization for Social Change (Hivos).

Throughout her career, Marielle was always developing new insights and approaches through innovative research and development projects. She worked on many themes, as reflected in the large number of publications, including:

  • Participatory multi-stakeholder policy development and action planning on urban agriculture. Marielle started to develop this approach when working at the UMP programme in Latin America,  and developed it further in the RUAF programmes ‘Cities Farming For the Future’ and ‘From Seed to Table’, in 17 cities in the South.
  • Urban Agriculture as a tool for urban climate change management. She initiated projects with UNDP and CDKN (UK) to put the concept into practice, assess potential impacts and develop guidelines and indicators.
  • City region food systems approach. Mainly in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Marielle worked on the operationalisation of this approach, including a planning toolkit and monitoring indicators

She was also co-founder and technical advisor to the ICLEI-RUAF CITYFOOD network.

Her intellect shined through the many  knowledge syntheses and training materials that she developed, with (amongst others) with Ryerson University and under commission from various international bi- and multilateral agencies, as well as governments at all levels.

Marielle leaves us on the 20th anniversary of RUAF, and following the recent transition of RUAF into a network named the ‘RUAF Global Partnership on Urban Agriculture and Food Systems’. The RUAF Partnership met in Montpellier only two weeks ago. The Partners expressed the unanimous commitment to build on Marielle’s legacy in urban agriculture and food systems, in her memory and honour, and with all around the world who were inspired by her.

The next issue of Urban Agriculture Magazine, celebrating 20 years of RUAF and the launch of the new RUAF website, will be dedicated to Marielle. We will invite those who have worked with Marielle over the past 20-25 years to contribute.

Marielle’s husband Guido has told us that Marielle always said “distance is not an issue and that, wherever you are in the world, when your thoughts are with someone that is what’s important”. If you would like to share in a worldwide farewell to Marielle, we will all take 15 minutes to remember her at the time of her cremation on Tuesday 29th October, 10-10.15am European Time. Marielle loved trees, especially old trees, so maybe find a tree or an outdoor space to be for that time.

Please do not hesitate to share this message widely.

The RUAF Secretariat, the RUAF Foundation Board, the RUAF Global Partnership.

Republished from

FLEdGE: Works Cited

October 2019

Select Publications from Summer/Fall 2019

Anderson, M. (2019). The Importance of Vision in Food System Transformation. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development9(A), 1-6.

Andrée, P., Bitterman, K. Meter, K. & Livingstone, L. (2019). The Future of Framing in Hastings County. Retrieved from

Ballamingie, P., Poitevin-DesRivières, C., & Knezevic, I. (2019). Hidden Harvest’s Transformative Potential: An Example of ’Community Economy’. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development9(A), 1-15.

Granzow, M., & Beckie, M. (2019). Making Place for Local Food: Reflections on Institutional Procurement and the Alberta Flavour Learning Lab. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development9(A), 1-15.

Levkoe, C. Z., & Offeh-Gyimah, A. (2019). Race, privilege and the exclusivity of farm internships: Ecological agricultural education and the implications for food movements. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space

MacNeill, T. & Vibert, A. (2019). Universal Basic Income and the Natural Environment: Theory and Policy. Basic Income Studies, 14(1).

Marshman, J. (2019). Wild bees need our protection.

Marshman, J. (2019). Communing with Bees: A Whole-of-Community Approach to Address Crisis in the Anthropocene. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development9(A), 1-24.

McLaughlin, J., Levkoe, C. Z., & Strutt, C. (2019). Indigenous Food Circle Annual Report 2018-2019. Retrieved from

Young, L. (2019). Growing Food in the City: Urban Agriculture in Quito, Ecuador, through a Feminist Lens. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development9(A), 1-8.

Previous FLEdGE: Works Cited posts

In the Room Where It Happens

October 2019

By Catherine Mah

With the writs issued, we are now headlong into a federal election. The fair and robust participation of many stakeholders, sectors, and voices is needed in Canada’s 43rd Parliament. It is also needed to create healthy and sustainable food systems for all. Policy participation is central to the FLEdGE Good Food Principles.

American political scientist E. E. Schattschneider, in his 1960s classic, The Semisovereign People, proposed that the ‘scope of conflict’ was central to determining political outcomes. Who is involved and who should be involved in solving societal problems? How can we make important issues and conflicts visible? In Schattschneider’s formulation, the heart of the struggle was the ongoing privatization (narrowing) and socialization (broadening) of the scope of conflict. Those who would seek to resolve issues with as little conflict as possible would attempt to narrow the scope. Democratic processes, and public involvement, can enlarge the scope of conflict.

I thought about Schattschneider shortly before 8:00 am on May 9, 2019 in the foyer of 1 Wellington Street. It was my first appearance in Senate committee, as an expert witness to the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry (AGFO).

I was excited to be presenting on a panel of accomplished colleagues and public health advocates: Elsie Azevedo Perry, Public Health Nutritionist with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit; Dr. Heather Thomas, Public Health Dietitian, Middlesex-London Health Unit; Dr. Sharon Kirkpatrick, Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo; and Bill Jeffery, Executive Director of the Centre for Health Science and Law and publisher of the Food for Life Report. Strength in numbers.

Catherine Mah on Parliament Hill with Elsie Azevedo Perry, Dr. Heather Thomas, Dr. Sharon Kirkpatrick, and Bill Jeffery.

The main purpose of my opening statement was simple: to expand the scope of conflict for food literacy in Canada. I wanted to connect with each Senator in the room, drawing on their experiences, diverse constituencies, and their roles on the Hill, to reinforce the idea that food choices are social. 

I gave credence to the prospect of individual agency in deciding what to eat, but spent most of my speaking time in arguing for how healthy food choices require healthy public policy. Setting the policy conditions for public health and food literacy means addressing fair economic participation, robust use of science, diverse voices in policy, food in public institutions, and setting new norms for community food environments to be places where healthy eating is rewarding for eaters and food businesses alike.

That morning in May was one of the last meetings of AGFO before it adjourned for the summer, and for the session. Without a formal study, our comments will go into the Hansard record, not (yet) into the material for a formal report.

A decade ago, during the financial crisis, an earlier iteration of the Committee prepared a comprehensive report on rural poverty in Canada that acknowledged the breadth of the health, social, and economic challenges and opportunities at hand. The report went on to influence policy decisions long afterwards.

AGFO Committee will reconstitute in a new session of Parliament, after October 21. FLEdGE partnership members and blog readers: let’s make sure we get back in the room when they do.

About the Author:

Catherine L. Mah is the Canada Research Chair in Promoting Healthy Populations, Associate Professor at Dalhousie University, and FLEdGE Atlantic Canada Research Node Co-lead