News & Events

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

BOOK REVIEW – Civilization Critical: Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future

September 2019

Review by Irena Knezevic

You probably don’t know all the facts that Darrin Qualman discusses in Civilization Critical, but even if you did, you should still read the book for its powerful synthesis of those facts. The book’s central argument is that contemporary human lifestyles rely on linear economies. We extract, consume and dispose of goods at unprecedented rates, growing the landfills and ocean dead zones. The myth of “dematerialized” information economy falls apart given the evidence that despite the growth in non-material commerce (be it services or apps) humanity’s consumption of material goods and energy continues to increase. This global “petro-industrial consumerist civilization” (p. 1) or eCivilization, to use Qualman’s shorthand, is headed for disaster. “Linear civilizations are terminal” he writes (p. 59).

The alternative to this civilization, Qualman argues, is to be found in circular flows that have characterized many pre-modern societies, some contemporary communities, and even the early Industrial Revolution-era Europe. These flows work by looping materials and energy in ways that mimic nature. Nowhere is the loss of this circularity better observed than in agriculture, where circularity of farming started to be replaced with linearity just over a century ago with mechanization, chemical inputs (particularly synthetic fertilizer), and technical “expertise”. Qualman is careful to note that this linear, industrial agriculture, has had some positive outcomes too, and he is reluctant to condemn all practitioners of modern agriculture. Nevertheless, he identifies the linearization of agriculture as the foundation upon which we have linearized all other areas of life, paving way for “a comprehensive restructuring of human civilizations and economies” (p. 47).

Nowhere is the loss of this circularity better observed than in agriculture, where circularity of farming started to be replaced with linearity just over a century ago with mechanization, chemical inputs (particularly synthetic fertilizer), and technical “expertise”.

The scope of what Civilization Critical covers is extensive, but Qualman’s accessible writing style makes it an easy read and an excellent teaching tool. In place of a summary of the book, an example may serve better to illustrate what it is that the book does so well. In the chapter that deals with efficiency (Chapter 23), Qualman introduces the Jevons paradox, the 1865 observation by the economist William Stanley Jevons that as the production of something becomes more efficient, cost of it falls and consumption increases – outweighing any resource conservation achieved through the greater efficiency. “Efficiency is good” Qualman writes, “What is not good is that too many people assume that efficiency itself leads to decreased material and energy use and lower greenhouse gas emissions” (p. 185).

If you want to dig up the antecedents of Qualman’s linear-circular argument, you are bound to find many, but this does not make the book any less original. Qualman’s ability to use this argument to articulate both the most pressing issues of our times and the solutions at our disposal is impressive. Qualman’s research is meticulous and the sheer volume of information included in this book is virtually encyclopedic. His storytelling through numbers is superb, and he is careful not to romanticize the past but instead make pragmatic, well-supported observations. The book is at once an historical account, social critique, analysis of power structures, and spiritual appeal. We don’t have to choose doom, Qualman concludes, because solutions are all around us. We just have to make wiser choices. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of that argument. Read the book, share it with others, and if you teach, assign it to your students. It’s a gem.

Qualman, Darrin. (2019). Civilization Critical: Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future. Halifax & Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

Su Morin Food Justice Scholarship

September 2019

Su Morin was a fearless fighter for food justice. No battle was too small, and every pollinator plant and every heirloom vegetable counted on the journey to better food and better communities. Her boundless knowledge and generous sharing of seeds and seedlings leave a legacy in many gardens throughout Ontario and Nova Scotia. This legacy is extended through the many students who had Su as a mentor and who absorbed her contagious love for seeds and nature. Her past work with the Canadian Organic Growers and Seeds of Diversity made her known in food justice circles across Canada. More recently, Su worked with the Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia where she further influenced colleagues and students with her passion for community gardens, seed saving, and community food security.

In the spirit of Su, a travel and research scholarship in the amount of $500 is being offered to fourth year undergraduate and graduate students for research and/or travel expenses. To apply for this award, please submit a 250-word essay describing how you will use the funding and how this contributes to food justice. Please send your submission to Irena Knezevic at: including ‘Su Morin Food Justice Scholarship’ in the subject line.

Applications will be accepted until November 15, 2019 with a decision by mid-January 2020.​