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




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”

Southern Ontario Food System Case Studies are Now Available!

In the summer 2017, four graduate students in the Southern Ontario FLEdGE Research Node worked with FLEdGE community partners on three action research projects. These projects explored the tensions, compromises, and opportunities inherent in the scaling up and out of sustainable food system initiatives. FLEdGE is happy to announce that case studies from those projects are now available to the public on our websiteContinue reading “Southern Ontario Food System Case Studies are Now Available!”

Cultivating Connections: Alberta Regional Food Systems Forum 2017

Conference Proceedings Now Available!

Find Forum Keynote and presenters’ slides, resources, and summary notes here:

On Feb 3-5 2017 Alberta Food Matters and FLEdGE—Food Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged – hosted a very successful Cultivating Connections 2017 Forum about Alberta Regional Food Systems. The purpose of this Forum was: 1) to bring together individuals and representatives from public, private and non-profit sectors in Alberta to share information about innovative initiatives; 2) to identify opportunities; and 3) to collaborate in building socially just, economically viable and ecologically sound and sustainable local/regional food systems in the province. The Forum provided a venue for those interested in forming partnerships, coalitions and action-oriented working groups toward this end.

Continue reading “Cultivating Connections: Alberta Regional Food Systems Forum 2017”

World’s future food security “in jeopardy” due to multiple challenges, FAO report warns

Without additional efforts, the target of ending hunger by 2030 will not be met.

Photo: ©FAO

Empowering small-scale farmers and providing them better access to information, markets and technologies is key to ensuring future food security.
Published by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations
Read the full report here.

22 February 2017, Rome – Mankind’s future ability to feed itself is in jeopardy due to intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality, and the fallout from a changing climate, warns a new FAO report out today.

Though very real and significant progress in reducing global hunger has been achieved over the past 30 years, “expanding food production and economic growth have often come at a heavy cost to the natural environment,” says The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges.
Continue reading “World’s future food security “in jeopardy” due to multiple challenges, FAO report warns”