Happy New Year from FLEdGE!

Sustainable food has been on the minds and lips of an increasing number of people in 2018. On the international stage, food has become an important part of discussions about climate change and sustainability with more attention being paid to how city-region food systems work across places and scales. Across Canada, sustainable food system researchers and community advocacy groups continue to provide input to the federal government as it develops “A Food Policy for Canada,” while at the same time working to address significant challenges within the food system at the local level.

2018 also saw substantial growth of the FLEdGE network. Our recent report, “Good Food Solutions: Building sustainable food communities for all Canadians” provides a snapshot of the work that we’ve done so far and outlines the five principles that ground our research practice as we work toward more sustainable food systems. We are delighted to be able to share the fruits of our collective research practice with you on our Resources and Results page and will continue to do so through 2019 and for the life of the FLEdGE project.

As 2018 comes to an end, we’d like to take the opportunity to wish you a very happy holiday season and send our best wishes for 2019. From all of us here at FLEdGE, may the New Year bring you health, joy, and good and sustainable food.

Wild harvest as an urban practice

December 2018

By Irena Knezevic

Windsor, Ontario, is in that part of Canada that geographically hooks into the US, and is paradoxically located south of the border, just across the river from Detroit. It is sometimes jokingly referred to as “Detroit South.” The moniker is in fact utterly appropriate. Like Detroit, it is a blue-collar town full of immigrants (largely white, European, but more recently also Lebanese and then Somalian) many of whom came to the city to work in the automotive factories that form the backbone of Windsor’s economy. It is also a city that, like Detroit, has a rich arts and culture scene.

In the heart of that city, just three or four blocks from the Detroit River, is an alley. This is where my mom, who lives in a condo overlooking the river and Detroit’s captivating skyline, picks all her grape leaves for dolmatas. We come from Bosnia, and we love stuffing vegetables of all kinds—peppers, zucchini, cabbage, onion, grape leaves. My stepfather is Greek, so dolmatas are a staple food for him too. Dolmatas make sense in their household. But the two of them live a comfortable urban retiree life, and don’t need to pick their food from alleyways where it’s free. My mom’s neighbourhood harvest is not a product of necessity. Yet, the delight in her voice is palpable when I phone her and she tells me about her recent harvest of mulberries in that same alley. The alley also offers nettle, wild strawberries, and dandelion leaves. Not far from there, she picks amaranth leaves (also known as pigweed or callaloo), and a few blocks over, just by the railroad tracks, is where she gets her rosehips for jam and tea. Continue reading “Wild harvest as an urban practice”

Can you DIG this video? Setting down roots for a healthy and sustainable food system

Durham Integrated Growers for a Sustainable Community (DIG) focuses on people working together to grow food in a healthy sustainable way. As the new video shows, this is partly about people getting their hands dirty as they grow food in and near Durham Region cities and towns.  However, it is also about supporting communities to grow, process, distribute, and sell food in ways that are best for them. It is about teaching skills around growing food in communities, promoting urban agriculture as a key ingredient for resilient communities and a sustainable food system, and advocating for greater policy support for urban agriculture. Watch the following video to get a better sense about what DIG digs!

About the Social Economy of Food Video Series 

The Social Economy of Food Video Series showcases local leaders that are using food to improve their communities by enhancing the local and social economies. Watch the complete series here.

Other videos in the series: 

Report on the Fifth Annual EAT Stockholm Food Forum

July 2018

EAT Stockholm Food Fora have been held every year since 2014. As a “science-based global platform for food system transformation,” the EAT initiative partners with a range of foundations, academic institutions, organizations and companies. The underlying principle is that everybody on earth has the right to healthy diets within planetary boundaries.

For the first time, the 2018 forum, “Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone,” was co-hosted by EAT and the Swedish Ministry of International Development Cooperation and Climate Change and gathered more 600 participants from science, politics, business and civil society from over 50 countries. Continue reading “Report on the Fifth Annual EAT Stockholm Food Forum”

Ontario Food Hub Infographics Now Available on www.fledgeresearch.ca

As part of an OMAFRA-funded research project that examined the role of food hubs in building food system resilience in community value chains, researchers at Wilfrid Laurier’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems conducted two province-wide surveys of local sustainable food hubs in Ontario. We surveyed food producers, processors, and distributors to find out how they defined local food, if/how they thought food hubs added value to food chains for producers and communities, where food hub funding is coming from, what kinds of expansion opportunities they could identify across the value chain, and how food hubs might increase local sales.

Continue reading “Ontario Food Hub Infographics Now Available on www.fledgeresearch.ca”

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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 https://fledgeresearch.ca/foodcounts/. Twitter: #FoodCounts.

CONTACTS

Charles Levkoe, Assistant Professor Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems Lakehead University 647-633-7447 or clevkoe@lakeheadu.ca

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