News & Events

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

What’s Secure About Food Security?

Fresh Clues on How to Understand & Make the Case for Food

By Wayne Roberts

I’ve worked as an analyst, practitioner, educator and consultant in the field of city-based food security for close to 20 years, and still found lots to learn from Pennsylvania State University historian Bryan McDonald’s brief and clearly-written book, called simply Food Security.

I will summarize and comment on three propositions in the book that really deepen our understanding of food security, and three omissions that are disappointing.

What’s Coming Up? Keep on reading for: *food security links to human security *hidden hunger *4 ways to think about solutions *people-centered food policy *bringing in cities, corporations and ecological health

Most useful to good food campaigners, McDonald’s book positions food security within the context of “human security” — a new way of framing the issues that boosts the chances of food getting the green light as a priority.

Getting politicians to put food on their shortlist for funding has long been a bigger problem for food security advocates than winning support for an actual program, which invariably comes in with great results for minimal costs.

The concept of human security may offer a shortcut to that funding shortlist.

Continue reading “What’s Secure About Food Security?”

New national report card provides comprehensive snapshot of the sustainability of Canada’s food systems


WATERLOO – Researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University, Lakehead University and the University of Toronto have taken a first step toward producing a comprehensive report card on the sustainability of Canada’s food systems. Their new report, “Food Counts: A Pan-Canadian Sustainable Food Systems Report Card,” brings together 61 existing measures of social, environmental, and economic well-being to examine food systems at the national level. Unlike existing food systems report cards, which focus on isolated perspectives such as economic productivity or individual health outcomes, Food Counts builds on existing efforts to create an integrative set of measurements to assess whole food systems, taking a range of relevant factors into account, from ecological, economic, health, labour, and educational points of view. There are plans to update it regularly to track trends.

“The Food Counts report card highlights the limitations of existing indicators and the need to reassess the way we approach and advocate for social justice, ecological regeneration, regional economies and active democratic engagement,” said Charles Levkoe, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems and an assistant professor at Lakehead University. “There is a lot more research needed to understand the path towards sustainable food futures and this report card is a vital step in that direction.”

Some areas where Canada is doing well, from a social justice point of view, include that agricultural wages are going up while fatalities among farm workers are going down. More farms are using water conservation measures and more households are composting.

Areas where Canada is not doing as well include that fruit and vegetable consumption is going down and is lower than average among Indigenous peoples. A set basket of food is becoming more expensive and household food insecurity is going up, with food bank use also on the rise. There are fewer, older farmers on fewer, larger farms and they are in greater debt. Farmers are using more chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, and agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are going up.

“Developing sustainable food systems is complicated,” said Alison Blay-Palmer, director of the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Centre for International Governance Innovation Chair in Sustainable Food Systems and an associate professor at Laurier and the Balsillie School of International Affairs. “We need to think about how our food is grown or harvested, who has access to healthy food, and how these things impact our environment and local economies. This report card helps us understand where we are doing well, where we can improve, and where we need more information.”

The report was produced with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada by the FLEdGE (Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged) research and knowledge-sharing partnership, which is hosted at Laurier. The report can be accessed online at Twitter: #FoodCounts.


Charles Levkoe, Assistant Professor Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems Lakehead University 647-633-7447 or

Alison Blay-Palmer, Associate Professor Centre for International Governance Innovation Chair in Sustainable Food Systems Wilfrid Laurier University

How Green is My Alley

Why the Low-Hanging Fruit of Food Security, Urban Agriculture and Community Development Can Be Found in Parks, Boulevards, Alleyways, Schoolyards and Institutional Lawns

By Wayne Roberts
This blog post was originally published on Wayne’s blog

Public Produce: Cultivating Our Parks, Plazas and Streets for Healthier Cities is an unusually important book, if only because the topic is so unusual — how people in cities and towns can grow food on public lands

Loads of books on urban agriculture have been published lately, but these manuals and manifestoes usually assume the growing will take place mainly on private or commercial land, such as backyards or rooftops. Gardens on public space, commonly called community gardens, are usually meant for individuals who don’t have a house with a yard, or groups that aren’t linked to an institution with its own land.

Because, don’t you know, food, like the land it’s grown on, is primarily a commodity to be bought and sold in the marketplace — that is the all-encompassing assumption behind the dominant food system.

So when Darrin Nordahl wrote a book devoted to food production on public lands, he was definitely charting new territory.

I remember when my food career was just beginning during the 1990s, and urban agriculture was considered radical and weird because so few people thought of cities as places with enough space to grow food.

Today, urban agriculture on public land seems just as radical and weird, because so few people have even thought about how much land governments own, how much could be made available for food production, and how many public benefits could be harvested from that decision. Continue reading “How Green is My Alley”

What is (not) a family farm?

By Irena Knezevic, Kelly Bronson, and Chantal Clément

The 2011 Census counted over 200,000 farms in Canada, and of those some 150,000 are family farms.  By definition, a family farm is any farm that is not managed by a commune, cooperative, or a non-family corporation. The diversity of farms that fall under the family farm designation is staggering: from small plots to thousands of acres, from income under $10,000 to over $200,000, from single-product to mixed operations. In practice, the family farm designation excludes only a narrow range of operations, and leaves the definition open to the wonderfully varied mixture of family farms in Canada.

Yet beyond its official definition, what is a Canadian family farm of the 21st century? We looked for answers to this question by speaking to family farmers themselves. Through 36 interviews with self-identified family farmers across Canada, we found that famers themselves have a broad understanding of the term. However, we also uncovered that this ambiguity can work both for and against the furthering of small-scale, sustainable farming operations.

For many, the wider cultural currency associated with the term “family farm”—which is evocative of a bucolic, pastoral setting—is valuable, both for marketing purposes and for farmers’ own ideas about their work and the roles they occupy in their communities. For some, however, the idyllic image that so resonates with the general public doesn’t always reflect the reality of contemporary family farming. Whereas some farmers questioned if very large operations should still be considered family farms, others felt that regardless of the size, family ownership implies a set of community-minded values. As one farmer pointed out to us: “I don’t think it’s wrong to say that people who have a bigger budget or bigger resources [are family farmers]. . . my instant reaction is yeah, it’s owned by the family, it’s family farmed.” Continue reading “What is (not) a family farm?”